May 24, 2011 — Des Moines, Iowa
In a morning speech yesterday, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty announced his campaign for president at the State Historical Building in Des Moines. Although he was the governor of Minnesota, Pawlenty’s name has not been one typically discussed as a front-runner in the 2012 presidential election. As a relatively unknown candidate, Pawlenty made bold statements Monday about the type of leader he would be if elected in 2012.
From an outdoor patio bathed in sunlight, Pawlenty said, “I’m Tim Pawlenty, and I’m running for president of the United States. We’ve tried Barack Obama’s way, and his way has failed.”
Pawlenty proclaimed himself to be the straight-talking politician and candidate who isn’t afraid to stand up to the current administration, current policies and even federal energy subsidies. In a risky move, especially in Iowa, Pawlenty said he would be in favor of a gradual but fair phase-out of ethanol subsidies.
“Conventional wisdom says you can’t talk about ethanol in Iowa or Social Security in Florida or financial reform on Wall Street. But someone has to say it.”
Yesterday’s visit to the state is Pawlenty’s 14th since choosing to abandon a re-election bid as the governor of Minnesota. He has made it apparent that he’s banking on Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses February 6, 2012, in order to win the Republican nomination for president. The Republican straw poll will be held on August 13, of this year, and many Iowa State Fair goers enjoy casting their kernal of corn. Many times those polls predict the political climate of Iowa, and many who have won them have gone on to win the nomination. Pawlenty’s goal is to win over established Iowa conservatives. He also wants to keep social conservatives close to his campaign.
Pawlenty told those in attendence that he would level with Americans and was accusational towards current U.S. President Barack Obama, saying that Obama does just the opposite. He called Obama’s policies a failure and stood firm when relating that he felt that Obama should tell the American people why the country is in its current economic and social state. He went on to say, “Politicians are often afraid that if they’re too honest, they might lose an election. I’m afraid that in 2012, if we’re not honest enough, we may lose our country,” Pawlenty said. “If we want to grow our economy, we need to shrink our government. If we want to create jobs, we need to encourage job creators. If we want our children to be free to pursue their dreams, we can’t shackle them with our debts. This is a time for truth.”
Pawlenty’s message that Americans are in the mess they are in, not as individuals, but as a country seemed to be popular with many who attended his press conference. Many in Iowa’s GOP base share similar concerns. Gaining the trust of Iowa citizens and party faithfuls will be difficult due to the sometimes unamenable groups that make up that base.
Jerry Granville, a self-proclaimed socially conservative Iowa Republican who attended Pawlenty’s meeting, said, “He will have to convince me that he is serious about making the government smaller and more manageable before I will vote for him. I like that he wants to be open. There needs to be more transparency in government. I am not convinced at this time that he will back up what he says he plans to do.”
“[Pawlenty] has the chops of a budget cutting politician,” Mary from Urbandale stated after the speech. “He did it in Minnesota, and I think that he can do it in Washington (D.C.).”
Pawlenty’s strategy to win the Republican nomination shows that he has lined up many consultants with roots in Iowa Republican campaigns and winning political campaigns. Terry Nelson and Sara Fagen, former aides to President George W. Bush’s campaign, have been picked to help Pawlenty move forward. Former aides of John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign are also onboard. Besides Iowa, Pawlenty has hired staff to work hard in New Hampshire where the nation’s first primary occurs. His competition in Iowa will be more fierce. Pawlenty will also need to spread the message that unlike George W. Bush, he will not turn his back on conservatives by creating policies that actually cause a growth in government like the failed “No child left behind” educational program that has come under fire in the past few years.
The Iowa Democratic Party circulated a link to former Minnesota Republican governor Arne Carlson’s critical blog posts of Pawlenty. According to Carlson, Minnesota’s property taxes “rose a stunning $2.5 billion” while Pawlenty was governor. Carlson also claims that in the eight years before Pawlenty’s election, property taxes rose a mere $716 million. “There is nothing personal in my assessment,” Carlson wrote. “I come from the more traditional wing of the Republican Party and truly believe in fiscal discipline and that the office of the presidency should go to our nation’s best and brightest and not its most ambitious.”
Pawlenty parried by remarking that Carlson supports Obama, that the Minnesota state budget was balanced, and that at the end of the budget cycle this summer, Minnesota will be in the black. He also argued that he feels he is the only Republican running for the presidential office who can engage voters who are not yet decided and unify conservatives across the nation. Pawlenty is also anxious to court tea party conservatives and evangelical Iowans who were interested in another run by Arkansas Republican Mike Huckabee only to find out that Huckabee will not seek a White House bid. Pawlenty also made remarks about the gay marriage battle in Iowa and the ousting of three Iowa Supreme Court Judges who voted in favor of gay marriage.
“I heard him say that he will take a stand on ending subsidies, but he will only get my approval if he goes after oil companies as well as ethanol,” stated Pat Merrill. “I just don’t see him having the power or strength to get through to big oil companies. [Mitt] Romney has a better chance of doing that in my book. Even Herman Cain has a better chance.”
Mark May, a central-Iowa resident who also attended the speaking engagement said, “I have been a Democrat since I was able to vote, but I am considering a change of parties or even becoming an Independent after what our country has been through in the last four years. If Pawlenty can change my mind about how politics are run today, I might vote for him. After hearing his speech, I enjoyed the fact that he didn’t come to Des Moines and put on a show of pure bravado. He seems genuine and I think that he made it clear what he intends to do if elected president.”
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