Tim Pawlenty, Off and Running
by Charles Lemos, Mon Aug 02, 2010 at 02:45:17 AM EDT
Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, Mike Pence, Rick Santorum, Gary Johnson, Tim Pawlenty make up a perhaps not exhaustive list of possible GOP contenders for the 2012 presidential nod. And while some are just in the thinking about it mode or perhaps testing the waters, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty seems all but announced.
The above video, entitled History is on Our Side, produced by Governor Pawlenty's Freedom First PAC was released just last week and has the all marks of a campaign video. It shows Pawlenty as a hockey player, provides a brief bio that touts his South St. Paul hard scrabble roots and covers his take on conservative commonsense principles as images of Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan and Rep. Michele Bachmann swirl past. Two hundred and ten seconds of Minnesota Bland might have been a better title.
On Monday, Governor Pawlenty will wrap up a five city tour of eastern Iowa in Davenport when he speaks to a local Republican group. This visit to Iowa is his fifth to the Hawkeye state since the end of the 2008 Presidential campaign and third this year. And Palwenty will be back in Iowa in less than in mid-August for more fundraising, along with an appearance at the Iowa State Fair.
Pawlenty's Iowa forays have not escaped the national press. This weekend, the New York Times provided the coverage:
Mr. Pawlenty, 49, is presenting himself as an authentic Main Street conservative, who twice won statewide election as a Republican in a progressive state. He says Republicans need to shed the stereotype that their party is rooted solely in the country club and the board room. He mentions none of his potential rivals by name, of course, but it is not lost on Republicans that he is seeking to become an alternative to Mr. Romney.
Mr. Pawlenty’s visibility has grown in Republican circles since he was a finalist to be Senator John McCain’s running mate in 2008. Asked whether he benefited from not being chosen, Mr. Pawlenty paused for a moment and said, “It seems like Sarah Palin has done very well, having been selected.”
In addition to his Iowa trips, Mr. Pawlenty has visited New Hampshire, the site of the first presidential primary, and has traveled across the country to help Republicans. He has raised more than $2.5 million for his Freedom First political action committee, some of which he is contributing to state and federal candidates.
While Ms. Palin and Mr. Romney have made similar contributions, they have done so from afar. As Mr. Pawlenty finished speaking on the farm outside of Waverly, he pulled a $500 check from his pocket and presented it directly to Bill Dix, a candidate for the Iowa Senate.
On a sultry afternoon, sweat was soaking into Mr. Pawlenty’s white shirt as he spoke with nearly everyone in the crowd of about 100. (He positioned himself by the lunch buffet, so a handshake was an easy stop on the way to the barbecued pork, potato salad and baked beans.)
His conversations and speeches were peppered with homespun one-liners, including the quip about his wife, which he has been telling Minnesota crowds for years.
On federal spending: “Watch the behavior of people at an open bar versus a cash bar. It is very different. That’s all you need to know about government. If you have an open bar, you’re going to have one set of behaviors, and we’ve got to get back — at least partially — to a cash bar.”
On why he believes Democrats have struggled creating jobs: “It’s pretty tough to be pro-job and anti-business. That’s like being pro-egg and anti-chicken. It doesn’t work so well.”
He drew respectable applause at the picnic and a few hours later at a fund-raiser for a Republican candidate in Cedar Rapids, where he had changed into a suit and tie. At each stop, he does not leave until the last hand has been shaken. But the congeniality does not mean that people will automatically sign on if he runs for president, a decision he said he would make early next year.
Closer to his Minnesota home, Minnesota Public Radio provides a taste of T-Paw stump speech:
Pawlenty speaks in Iowa without notes and sticks to a well-rehearsed message.
"Thanks a lot everybody," he said. "I appreciate that warm welcome."
Pawlenty said the country is on the wrong track. He concentrates on economic and foreign policy issues rather than hot-button social concerns.
"When it comes to government, there's a lot of complex, big things. But there is some simple, basic, common sense that we have to demand, starting with -- government can't spend more than it has," Pawlenty said.
Virtually all of the people who met the governor at the Dubuque Golf and Country Club are active Republicans -- many of them current, former or aspiring office-holders themselves.
With Pawlenty's presence, they are able to raise money around his visit for their respective races. On this trip, every candidate Pawlenty speaks for gets at least $500 from his political action committee.
"So much of politics is about IOUs," Drake University professor of politics Dennis Goldford said. "So it's easy for a potential presidential candidate to come in and say, 'Hi, you're Joe Blow, you're running for state representative. I like what you're doing and I want to give you some support.' That's a tremendous help to Joe Blow, and the candidate will hope that Joe Blow remembers that when it comes to the Iowa caucuses."
Goldford has been watching Iowa politics from his Des Moines office for 25 years. In addition to making early friends, he said Pawlenty's relatively low-profile visits give him a chance to polish and refine his message.
Pawlenty's standard stump speech has gotten considerably shorter and tighter over the past several months and he seems more at ease.
That's probably a good thing because if you listen to Governor Pawlenty's speech at the GOP Leadership For Iowa dinner back on November 7, 2009 in Des Moines, the one clear takeaway is that he is not ready for prime time.