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Posted at 5:15 PM ET, 01/13/2011

Nice but tough -- Tim Pawlenty at the National Press Club

By Jennifer Rubin

The "too nice" rap on Tim Pawlenty and the lack of a clear campaign theme have been the most discussed shortcomings of the potential Pawlenty 2012 campaign. To some degree, he addressed both of those at a speech at the National Press Club.

You notice Pawlenty's height first. He's considerably taller than most people in a large room. If you buy the adage that taller candidates have an advantage, that's one asset for him.

He also has developed a more animated and forceful speaking style. He gave a longish speech with no script or notes. He employed parallel sentence structure to build momentum. Failed schools are "socially, morally, economically" unworkable, for example. And he's learned to inject some levity as well. He said, "Just because we follow Greece in democracy does not mean we need to follow Greece into bankruptcy." His emphasis on tough decisions he made as governor (e.g. cutting spending, reforming health care) carried the message that he's no pushover. When wrapping up, he acknowledged the tough work ahead to address our economic problems. He said, "It's not about 'easy.'"

On the message side of things, the Pawlenty approach seems to be to weave his personal life experience into policy. He spoke about the hardship in the blue-collar, meat-packing town in which he grew up. The lesson from that, he said, is that "strong-back jobs" are going away. Now you need to "have education and skills to compete in this economy. If not, you are going to be marginalized." He translated that into "Life is pretty hard if you don't have a job," which in turn should lead us to policies which stimulate job growth, investment, and risk taking.

Similarly on the debt, he said simply, "We can't spend more than we have." He talked about average Americans in big box discount stores. "You see people don't have a lot of money but they are looking for the best value they can get." You see, he explained, when you spend your own money you make different choices. He made an analogy. If there is a host bar, people indulge since they are getting something for free. You "see a very different behavior" when you're getting something for nothing than when, in this contrasting example, you have to pay for your own at a cash bar. The lesson, especially in health care, is that consumers must be in charge of the dollars they spend."

Likewise on education (when he gave a shout out to Michele Rhee, "She was bold, she was courageous, she spoke truth to power, and they kicked her out!") and foreign policy (e.g. project strength not weakness, don't have daylight between yourself and allies like Israel) he tried to connect the personal to the policy. To a large degree, it worked well.

In the Q & A that followed, he praised the president's speech yesterday, noting that in providing empathy, unity and hope, Obama did a "fine" job. In a question about Ronald Reagan's successful presidency, there was perhaps an indirect hit on Sarah Palin. Pawlenty said that Reagan was "definitely a movement conservative," but he was also, "hopeful, optimistic and civil." Hmm. But when asked directly about Palin, he was careful and polite. Her influence on the GOP is "large," she's a "remarkable leader" and she's been unfairly dinged for a "different [life] experience" (i.e. not going to an Ivy League school). And in a final note of toughness, he reiterated that he is for free trade, but "he's not for being a chump."

Pawlenty is going to have to sell the conservative electorate on his record (which is strong), his appeal to independents (he won twice in a blue state), and his fidelity to conservative values. (Asked about don't ask, don't tell, he said he didn't support the repeal because the Pentagon survey showed that combat troops were heavily opposed to it.) His decision to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference despite the boycotters is intended to make the point: He's a unifier and a movement conservative, not someone fanning the flames of divisiveness.

He may have to run against the biggest political celebrity (Palin) as well as the best-funded and organized Republican (Romney), but he showed that he has some assets of his own. Whether they are enough is yet to be determined.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 13, 2011; 5:15 PM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign  
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Comments

"Michele Rhee, "She was bold, she was courageous, she spoke truth to power, and they kicked her out!"

She endorsed the losing candidate, oops, is that bad?

Posted by: 54465446 | January 13, 2011 6:33 PM | Report abuse

"(Asked about don't ask, don't tell, he said he didn't support the repeal because the Pentagon survey showed that combat troops were heavily opposed to it.)"

Actually, not.

"An internal Pentagon study has concluded that most U.S. troops and their families would support a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military."

http://nationaljournal.com/nationalsecurity/pentagon-study-most-troops-support-repeal-of-don-t-ask-don-t-tell--20101029?mrefid=site_search

Posted by: bernielatham | January 13, 2011 6:45 PM | Report abuse

"(Asked about don't ask, don't tell, he said he didn't support the repeal because the Pentagon survey showed that combat troops were heavily opposed to it.)"

Actually, not.

"An internal Pentagon study has concluded that most U.S. troops and their families would support a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military."

http://nationaljournal.com/nationalsecurity/pentagon-study-most-troops-support-repeal-of-don-t-ask-don-t-tell--20101029?mrefid=site_search

Posted by: bernielatham | January 13, 2011 6:49 PM | Report abuse

oops, sorry

Posted by: bernielatham | January 13, 2011 6:58 PM | Report abuse


Democrats - you are all going to tell us that YOU haven't lost confidence in this dude Obama ???

The guy doesn't even know how to properly handle a mass murder.


The democrats have to be holding back their complete lack of confidence that Obama can do anything right.


Obama and his people treated the country to nothing less than a circus this week.

And at every turn, they are attacking - or demanding that the other side join them in a truce for their own good.


A mass murder is an opportunity for Obama to play political games - the country is not happy.

Obama is in control of his own people - his SILENCE this week while his people attacked -

These idiot pundits this morning - pretending that none of that happened - and the first thing we have heard from Obama and his people this week started after the Indian left the stage.

Seriously folks, this is a major political party of a Superpower???

This is the fourth clown act in the side ring of a bad circus.


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | January 13, 2011 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Bernie


You are lying again

the previous quote referred to COMBAT troops

AND THE MARINES DONT WANT REPEAL EITHER


And your survey includes "families" - I wonder what that break-down would be.


The democrats are constantly LYING about the poll numbers - AND stacking the questions in forms to get their desired results


Then while the democrats KNOW their surveys are FLAWED, they insist they are right in the most obnoxious way.


Liberals get lost.

.

Posted by: RainForestRising | January 13, 2011 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Poor Pawlenty - blah, blah, blah. Same old stuff.

Yes, Governor, we all know the problems - but what are you going to do about it. When he starts talking about his PLAN - then I'll listen.

Posted by: pamfah_99 | January 14, 2011 12:19 AM | Report abuse

"His decision to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference despite the boycotters is intended to make the point: He's a unifier and a movement conservative, not someone fanning the flames of divisiveness."

When asked about the inside baseball controversy over CPAC Gov. Pawlenty unsurprisingly said he didn't know about it. Please be clearer when you are giving your own personal positions as opposed to ascribing them to others.

Posted by: FamilyMac | January 14, 2011 10:19 AM | Report abuse

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