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Pawlenty dishes out red meat to CPAC crowd

Gov. Tim Pawlenty speaks to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) during their annual meeting on Friday.
REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Gov. Tim Pawlenty speaks to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) during their annual meeting on Friday.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — This was a stump speech for Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a broad blueprint of how he’d lead the country, and intended to introduce himself to conservative activists and plant a firm foot on the national stage.

No, he didn’t get the rapturous applause that Rep. Michele Bachmann received when she spoke some two-and-a-half hours later. But activists at the American Conservative Union Foundations annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) seemed to eat up the red meat the governor dished out.

The center of Pawlenty’s address was his four-principle guide for conservatives (and, implicitly, any administration he might one day run):

1. God is in charge, a position Pawlenty conceded might not be politically correct, but was good enough for the Founding Fathers and should be good enough for each and every one of us.

2. We can’t spend more than we have, a point which he’s talked at length (and received some pushback) on before.

3. People spend their money differently when it’s their money, a point he used when talking about his health care ideas.

4. Bullies prey on weakness. Pawlenty said his message for President Obama on this was: “Mr. President, no more apology tours, and no more giving Miranda rights to terrorists in our country.”

9 iron and government
One of Pawlenty’s biggest applause lines came when he advised the conservative activists listening to take a piece of advice from Tiger Woods wife, Elin Nordegren, who he said had “had enough” with her husband’s philandering.

“I think we should take a page out of her playbook, and take a 9 iron and smash a window out of big government in this country,” Pawlenty said.

AUDIO: Pawlenty responds to DFL critics back home

The initial response from the Democratic National Committee came on Twitter from spokesman Frank Benenati: “TEAPaw takes a 9 iron to his own credibility at CPAC. Now called TEAPaw for pandering to radical right wing.”

Pawlenty said in an interview after his speech that his goal was simply to put his ideas on the table and better introduce himself to Americans.

“For me, most people across the country still don’t know who I am,” Pawlenty said, “so I’m trying to provide a little information about my background, what I believe, some of my accomplishments, and hopefully give them some ideas or some energy that they can carry forward to help us win some elections in 2010 as conservatives.”

So was he successful?

“Well, that’s not for me to decide,” Pawlenty replied.

Kevin Horne, 18 of Williamsport, Pa., and Ian McArdle, 21 of Baltimore, Md., looked to me like Pawlenty’s target audience. They were among a group of young men who carried glossy photos of Pawlenty, that they had printed at a local Wal-Mart, ready for him to sign (he eventually signed a few). Both said they were big Pawlenty fans, both listened intently to his speech, but neither walked away sold on Pawlenty as the Republican nominee in 2012.

McArdle said he’s between Pawlenty or Mitt Romney as his presidential favorite, while Horne said he’s leaning toward Romney, but likes Pawlenty in a different role than perhaps he’s aiming for.

“He looks like the next vice president, perhaps,” said Horne.
Derek Wallbank is MinnPost’s Washington, D.C., correspondent and can be reached at wallbank[at]minnpost[dot]com.

Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by Paul Scott on 02/19/2010 - 02:24 pm.

    Calling all waiters/photo editors hoping to make it big in the liberal blogosphere: During his speech the governor pitted his supporters against the “elites,” or as he described them, people who “hang out at chablis drinking, brie eating parties in San Francisco.”
    (Travis Tritt called, he wants his metaphors back.) Anyway, given his relentless fundraising schedule this past year, I’m pretty sure there is a tale/photo somewhere of the governor eating a soft cheese and drinking chablis.

  2. Submitted by Tim Walker on 02/19/2010 - 03:24 pm.

    I agree with Mr. Pawlenty’s point #1: Allah is in charge.

    All praise be to Allah!

  3. Submitted by Alicia DeMatteo on 02/19/2010 - 03:46 pm.

    Read between the lines of his speech: I’m a good conservative, I promise. If you elect me, I’ll be sure to mention God regularly and pander as much as I can to the extreme right wing … even though I’ve been playing a moderate conservative to the Minnesotans.

  4. Submitted by Morgan Matthews on 02/19/2010 - 07:48 pm.

    I can’t wait to see what a real opponent’s opposition research team would zero in on with TeaPaw. He’s skated through against some very sub-par adversaries here. I wonder what Romney’s team would come up with, or dare I hope, what would happen if Obama turned James Carville loose on TeaPaw.

  5. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 02/19/2010 - 08:13 pm.

    From a suburban city councilman to a presidential contender.

    Is this a great country or what?

  6. Submitted by Howard Miller on 02/20/2010 - 11:59 am.

    Governor Pawlenty owes the public an apology for using violence metaphors (smashing the window of big government with a 9 iron) just after a private citizen disgruntled with the IRS kills an IRS employee by smashing his airplane into the Texas building that houses local IRS officials.

    It is wrong to use words that will incite violence from the unhinged fringe of his political company.

    As a sitting governor who gets state-paid security protection he is well aware of how many really unstable people are among us. Words that he and Michele Bachmann (armed and dangerous) use to stir their base are making our country more coarse, less governable for whom ever has the majority lately.

    Governor Pawlenty, please stop it. You used to know better, show more class and respect for civil political discourse. Stop this red-meat-to-right-wingers nonsense

  7. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 02/20/2010 - 03:23 pm.

    Richard Schulze,

    More like son of working classs hero goes to public schools at others expense, forgets where he comes from, becomes equal parts rich and arrogant and ends up an evil, hateful and distant ruler.

    I don’t call that great.

  8. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 02/20/2010 - 07:35 pm.

    Jeremy, My comment was meant as a nonpartisan, non-ideological observation about a country that offers unlimited possibilities if one has the personal initiative and drive to succeed. And whether you are a liberal or conservative that fact should resonate with all of us, partisan or not.

  9. Submitted by Remy Green on 02/21/2010 - 11:50 am.

    I was part of that group of young men! Ian is my roommate. I was the guy with the yarmulke. The governor is really friendly.

  10. Submitted by William Pappas on 02/21/2010 - 01:37 pm.

    TEAPaw is a presidential contender in is own mind and nowhere else. This guy’s views are right in Bachmann’s wheelhouse. In fact his 9-iron gaffe may be his undoing. If Republicans overide his veto on GAMC it will serve to illustrate just how out of step he is with the majority of Minnesota citizens. This man could care less about the state for which he serves. Contrary to his assertions he cannot spend his time elsewhere and be a full participant in these critical budget negotiations and discussions. The lameduck Pawlenty doesn’t even enjoy the state legislative support of his own minority party. The best thing for Minnesota and the country would be for republicans to ignore his vetoes, rendering him irrelevant, and work on this budget with honesty and concern for the state and place Pawlenty’s political agenda where it belongs at the fringe of the tea party gatherings and right wing cheerleading fests.

  11. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 02/21/2010 - 02:19 pm.

    Pawlenty is right about one thing: ” … most people across the country don’t know who I am.”

    But I think the national media are gradually (very gradually) catching on.

    Goodbye democracy if he or any Republican is elected in 2012.

  12. Submitted by Rebecca Hoover on 02/22/2010 - 12:31 am.

    Pawlenty is such a PeeWee Herman that one can never imagine the little fellow becoming president. If for some bizarre reason he were elected president, he would be another President Millard Fillmore.

    Pawlenty is one of the most ineffective governors Minnesota has had. When he leaves office, he will leave no notable achievement behind. Why would Pawlenty imagine this record of under achievement make him a good president?

  13. Submitted by James Hamilton on 02/22/2010 - 05:30 pm.

    Many people appear to underestimate Gov. Pawlenty’s abilities, which is a great mistake when dealing with one’s opponents. Give the man his due: he managed to climb to the top of the state political heap by age 43 and kept the seat for 8 years, all the while doing his best to roll state government back to a point it last occupied before his birth. He’s made major inroads, in large part because he’s sold himself to the public rather than the specifics of any plan. Don’t believe for a minute that he is stupid or ignorant. While I’ll be surprised to see him pull off the Republican nomination ion 2012 (or a role as a VP candidate), I fully expect to see him around for a long time to come. I suspect Sen. Klobuchar and Sen. Franken are keeping an eye on him and any interest he may come to have in one of their seats.

  14. Submitted by Dan Gerber on 02/24/2010 - 01:03 am.

    In an effort to contribute something to a civil insurance
    debate, I’ll say that I generally agree with Governor Pawlenty’s 5th point in the Washington Post piece (point
    3 in this article); finding ways to deal with job-switching, portability, preexisting conditions, and job loss. I see an HSA as a solution only for those able to put money aside for that.

    I’m skeptical about exchanges, point 4 in the WP article. Has anyone here helped someone select a Medicare drug plan? The
    choices are mind-numbing and confusing. I quote the Governor:
    “The federal government could facilitate a similar initiative for interstate health insurance.” Does that make him in favor of some kind of government plan?

  15. Submitted by Remy Green on 02/24/2010 - 04:32 pm.

    He’s not little, he’s about 6’2″. His shoes were crap though. But to be fair to him, he might have been wearing a beater pair because of all the snow.

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