Strong Iowa showing vital for Pawlenty, campaign manager says

Nick Ayers, the 28-year-old campaign manager for Tim Pawlenty, told the New York Times in a Q and A that the route to the White House goes through Iowa for the former Minnesota governor.

That makes next month’s straw poll in Iowa crucial for the campaign.

Some of the questions from an edited transcript:

Q. How do you win?

A. We win by doing well in Iowa. We’re not running a national campaign, we’re focused on the early states. And even in those early states, we’ve just now begun to advertise. This is not a candidate that has been running for president his whole life, or for the last four or six years like others in the field have. This is all about peaking at the right time. And that begins at the Iowa caucuses in January.

Q. How big a deal was the negative press you got after that debate in New Hampshire?

A. It was certainly a hiccup. As the governor said himself, he should have been more clear that night. The advantage is, we have seven or eight more debates in front of the Iowa caucuses. It’s very likely that all candidates will have a moment like that. Would I have rather him made that in June of 2011 than December of 2011 or January of 2012? Yes. Every campaign will face bumps in the road; it’s a matter of how do you overcome them.

Q. Does it strengthen your campaign to have Michele Bachmann jump into the race?

A. Sure. The way you have to look at this is, if you can’t beat her, how do you beat Barack Obama? This is one of the great things I learned from Haley Barbour: primaries are a really good thing. Come January, we plan on winning Iowa. We don’t have to hopscotch states thereafter, like many of the other candidates in this field will.

Q. You have to win Iowa?

A. The circumstances could be such that maybe a 2nd-place finish makes sense. Maybe not. It depends on who else is in the race.

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