CEDAR RAPIDS – The obituaries being written about Tim Pawlenty’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination appear to be premature.
That’s not just the candidate and his staff talking, but more than 130 people who gave the former Minnesota governor an enthusiastic reception at a July 8 campaign stop in a Cedar Rapids.
Pawlenty was hardly the Maytag Repairman as he stumped amid home appliances, window treatments and carpet samples at the Ar-Jay Center. He was frequently interrupted by applause from those who filled the chairs between the model kitchens. Many said they are undecided, but they liked Pawlenty’s passion, ideas and mince-no-words approach to challenging President Obama’s record.
They groaned, but clapped, when he compared Obama to a “manure-spreader in a windstorm.”
“The stuff is flying all over the place and it’s not pretty. Now we have to clean up the mess,” Pawlenty said.
“It’s far too early to be writing anyone off,” Dee Ann Johnson of Cedar Rapids said. Other candidates have been on the national scene far longer than Pawlenty, so it’s only natural they have higher name recognition.
“Everyone was giving (the nomination) to Hillary Clinton last time around and look what happened,” added Carl Hatcher of Cedar Rapids.
Pawlenty’s low numbers – in polling and fundraising show Iowans aren’t falling for his “results not rhetoric” theme, according to Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky of Coralville.
Pawlenty has campaigned as much in Iowa as any of the GOP candidates, she said, and his excuse that he’s just begun to campaign in “earnest” is laughable.
“That’s too cute by half,” Dvorsky said, and “gives legs to the actual substantive problem he has – his desire to run away from his record.”
Less than a year after Pawlenty finished two terms as Minnesota governor, that state is embroiled in a political stalemate that has shutdown state government.
“He can try to reinvent himself, but the bottom line, the focus, is on Minnesota, and that’s a pretty tough thing to run away from,” Dvorsky said. “Spin it any way you want, but this is a bad situation the people of Minnesota find themselves in. It’s a mess.”
The most recent addition to the Pawlenty campaign put another spin on it, one she based on the 2008 GOP race.
Sarah Huckabee Saunders, who helped guide her father, Mike Huckabee, to victory in the 2008 Iowa precinct caucuses, predicted that Pawlenty will do well in the Iowa GOP Straw Poll next month and the caucuses in February.
“Dad was lower in the polls than Gov. Pawlenty,” Saunders said Friday. He was at 2 percent in July, a month before placing second in the straw poll. Pawlenty is at 6 percent in the most recent Iowa Poll.
Pawlenty also dismissed suggestions his campaign is fizzling, but said he has to gain momentum, especially among the undecided conservatives like George Kunzman of Marion, who plans to participate in the straw poll Aug. 13. Kunzman liked with Pawlenty’s demand that any deal to raise the debt ceiling be accompanied by spending cuts.
“We’re mortgaging our grandchildren’s and great-grandchildren’s futures,” said Kunzman.
“We don’t have to win it,” Pawlenty said about the straw poll, “but we have to show some improvement.”
And for Iowans, he said, “”It’s important not just to be first, but to be right.”
“To send a message that the person who wins Iowa is somebody who can really be the nominee, who can really beat Barack Obama, who can really be the president under the most difficult and challenging times,” Pawlenty said.
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