The hockey-playing former governor was forced into overtime this morning when the line of book purchasers snaked around the LifeWay Christian Store in Woodbury. It turns out the chit-chat with just about every book buyer proved too extensive, the photo-taking too time-consuming.
“And you’re Joan?” Tim Pawlenty asked, soon after signing his name for the hundredth or so time, way beyond the 12:30 p.m. cutoff mark for his first Minnesota book appearance.
Selling books and one’s presidential aspirations are retail games, and Tim Pawlenty, private citizen, seemed at ease doing both.
“Courage To Stand” is moving up the Amazon.com book list, No. 1,979 this afternoon (1,500 slots behind Sarah Palin’s latest).
Today, over the course of about 90 minutes (he had been scheduled for just an hour ) Pawlenty scrawled his John Hancock and lengthy inscriptions — “Stay strong and thanks” or “With fond memories and appreciation” — on lots of books. Store managers had to cut off the line after 118 people sought to get Pawlenty’s signature; many purchased more than one book.
Pawlenty deployed his Sharpie while donning a broad and relaxed smile, looking downright presidential with a dark suit, a red tie and a series of down-pat talking points about Palin, Michele Bachmann and the controversy over the national debt ceiling that MinnPost’s Eric Black analyzed today.
Through it all, he shook hands and posed with children as if he were on some sort of campaign trail. (Not yet, just “leaning,” “seriously considering.”) And his website sure has the candidate’s look.
The venue site — a Christian bookstore in a suburban strip mall — was picked by his publisher, Tyndale House, which specializes in Christian books.
His book, Pawlenty said, is, in part, about faith. And as he signed the book, he sat under a tiny plaque that quoted from Luke 18:27: “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
Lots of media interviews
Pawlenty certainly had Republican-candidate sorts of things to say in a series of interviews with local media outlets, including MinnPost, and during a spot with The Patriot, the conservative AM radio station, which broadcast live from the store to mark Pawlenty’s appearance.
On Bachmann’s potential run for president, he told WCCO TV’s Pat Kessler: “I have a lot of respect for Michele Bachman … Whether she runs or not, it’s gonna be a big field. There’s gonna be five, six, seven, eight people running … Whoever wants to run can run. The more, the merrier.”
On civility, a hot topic after the shootings in Arizona earlier this month: “Everybody has their own style, and I’m sure six months from now, people maybe will be back to their old habits. But, for now, I hope people will step back and realize we can have strong ideas, strong values, strong arguments, but it doesn’t mean we can’t be fair and decent and respectful of the other side and try to be civil. I haven’t always done that either. I’ve said some things and done some things in my time where I’ve said, ‘Ah, man, I wish I hadn’t said that. It was too harsh or over the line.’ ”
On Palin, and her relationship to the Arizona shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, he told KSTP-TV’s Tom Hauser: “Sarah Palin has strong views and a strong style. The marketplace will sort out all of that … She was falsely accused. Let’s not forget, in the opening hours and days of the terrible tragedy in Arizona there were groups of people basically accusing her of causing and contributing to the incident. It turned out not to be true. So, of course, she’s a little frustrated, and that’s understandable.”
On health care, he supports repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act, which he calls “Obamacare,” and replacing it “with something better.” Repeal is important, he said, because “Republicans ran around the country this last election saying they’re going to do that. It’s important that you govern like you campaign and campaign like you’re going to govern. If they didn’t do it, they’d be hypocrites. Everyone would say that’s just politicians again making promises that they didn’t back up.”
On the debt ceiling, he reiterated to The Patriot’s Morrissey what he told other outlets over the weekend, and took on President Obama: “The president, in my view, is setting up a false choice between raising the debt ceiling and defaulting. There is a different way to do this.” He called the federal budget a “Ponzi scheme” without tackling “entitlement reform.”
On his full frontal treatment by The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart last week:
Pawlenty told MinnPost he enjoyed it: “I appreciate him. He uses comedy to bring people in. He’s smart. He does his homework … He knows what he’s doing. He’s a 360-degree thinker. We obviously don’t agree. I enjoy the back and forth. And I also enjoy that he can flip the switch from comedy to serious policy and philosphy … If you’re going to go on his show, you gotta know you’re going to take some broadsides.”
On Collins’ very sarcastic review of his book:
“The tone reflected that she didn’t care much for the book. But it’s the New York Times, what are you going to do? … They’re not going to like a Republican or a conservative, that’s who they are. ”
Books and banter
After a break for his radio interview, Pawlenty had to quickly return to the book-signing table. The line of book buyers was still 30 strong. He kept up the banter with customers, many of whom he recognized or had known from previous campaigns or his boyhood.
“You still playing hockey?” one asked.
Pawlenty said he was, but he was fighting off shoulder and ankle injuries. After today, he might have to add writer’s cramp to the list.
He had a plane to catch. If it’s Wednesday, it must be San Francisco. And then Dallas. Fittingly, his January will end in Iowa. He’ll have plenty of stops there from now on. There’s the important Ames Straw Poll that will take place on Aug. 13. And then there are the benchmark Iowa Caucuses, set for Feb. 6, 2012.
“That will come up fast,” said the ex-governor and current author, “if I do run.”