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February 8th, 2011

Pawlenty delivers on substance at first “Presidential Lecture Series” event

By Kevin Hall

Tim Pawlenty said all the right things during the inaugural “Presidential Lecture Series” event sponsored by The FAMiLY Leader.   A crowd of 150 attendees, plus a dozen media members, gathered at Pella Christian High School early Monday afternoon to listen to the former Minnesota governor.  The crowd liked what they heard, but was not blown away by Pawlenty’s delivery.

If elections were won only on substance, Pawlenty would stand a strong chance in the 2012 Iowa Caucus.  However, style matters too.  Oratorical skills propelled Barack Obama to the White House in 2008. Pawlenty will need to become a more passionate speaker as the campaign moves forward.  He possesses an everyman quality that could endear him to caucus goers, but lacks the soaring rhetoric of Obama, folksy humor of Mike Huckabee, and fiery charisma of Chris Christie.

However, when it comes to the issues, Pawlenty’s record and stances stack up very well against the other potential 2012 candidates.  It is that record that Pawlenty must use to set himself apart from the field.  The purpose of the “Presidential Lecture Series” is to find out where the candidates stand on pro-family issues.  Pawlenty’s 20 minute speech to the Pella crowd drew little response.  However, he scored points during the question and qnswer session, conducted by The FAMiLY Leader’s CEO Bob Vander Plaats.

Based solely on what he said Monday, it is hard to find anything social and fiscal conservatives will not like about Pawlenty’s credentials.  Pawlenty’s social conservative record includes co-authoring Minnesota’s Defense of Marriage Act and signing several pro-life bills into law.  “Respect for life is embraced in our founding documents,” Pawlenty said.  “It is a cornerstone of our society.  It needs to be a cornerstone policy of our government.”

Pawlenty also has no problem speaking openly about his Christian faith and the role it played during his tenure as governor.  Pawlenty says he held regular Bible study groups during his tenure to help reinforce his administration’s values and perspectives.

Not surprisingly, Vander Plaats asked Pawlenty his view on judges.  His response earned applause from the Pella crowd.  “I want to appoint strict constructionists who apply the law as written, not make it up on the back of a napkin to suit their own personal agenda,” Pawlenty said.

On education, Pawlenty strongly backs school choice, including home schooling and charter schools.  “We should push and promote as much school choice and parental control of school choice in a child’s education as possible,” he said.

Fiscal conservatives will appreciate Pawlenty’s stand on overhauling the federal tax system.    He supports a “flatter, fairer tax” and believes the current system is far too complicated.  “I think a really good idea is to pass a law that requires every member of Congress to do his or her own tax returns without the benefit of a lawyer, tax preparer or accountant.”  That line drew the most positive response of the event from the Pella crowd.

A wise political move was to have Pawlenty’s wife of 23 years, Mary, introduce him at the event.  She will be a strong asset to Pawlenty’s campaign.  Mrs. Pawlenty mentioned how raising their two daughters keeps her busy, her deep affection for her husband, and her ties to the local community.  A perfect triumvirate for a pro-family event.  Mrs. Pawlenty’s grandmother and great-grandmother grew up in Pella.  Then she heaped great praise on her spouse.  “He is just an all-around wonderful human being,” Mary Pawlenty said.  “But in addition to being the kindest human being I’ve ever known, he is also the strongest.  So it is my pleasure to be here in support of him, now and forever.”

It is too early to tell if Tim Pawlenty won over any supporters in Pella, but it is highly doubtful that anyone in attendance ruled him out.  Pawlenty came across as likeable, approachable, and well-versed on the issues that are important to Iowa Caucus goers.

UPDATE ON OTHER CANDIDATES IN THE “PRESIDENTIAL LECTURE SERIES” was the first to report that Bob Vander Plaats said 2008 Iowa Caucus winner Mike Huckabee would take part in the “Presidential Lecture Series” in June.  Vander Plaats backtracked on that, somewhat, on Monday.

“I probably misspoke,” Vander Plaats told the Des Moines Register. “If Gov. Huckabee were to decide to run, he definitely wants to participate in this.  As we’re trying to network our schedule, we have him slated for June, July or August, depending on who commits when.  He has not committed.  He’s committed to do the presidential lecture series, if he were to run.”

In another departure from statements Vander Plaats made in Oskaloosa last Thursday, Ron Paul, not Herman Cain, will be the next candidate to participate in the “Presidential Lecture Series”.  Paul will visit Pella, Iowa City and Sioux Center on March 7th.  Cain is not on the official schedule, but has agreed to participate.  Michelle Bachmann is on the docket for April 11th and Rick Santorum is set for May 2nd.

Photo by Dave Davidson

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About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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