Tim Pawlenty had an impressive day on the campaign trail in Iowa yesterday. Pawlenty began his day with a breakfast meeting in Ames that was attended by 60 people. Later that day, a crowd of 95 turned out to see the former Minnesota Governor in Adel, another community near Des Moines.
It is clear that Pawlenty sees Iowa as a must-win state for him. Last week, he announced his Iowa campaign team, including a massive staff that comprising ten field staffers, a communications director, a political director, a deputy state director, and a state director. On top of all that, Pawlenty’s campaign also boasts multiple Iowa political consultants. To put Pawlenty’s Iowa staff in perspective, he is employing more people to work on his Iowa caucus campaign that the entire rest of the field combined.
State Representative Erik Helland has been tasked to lead Pawlenty’s Iowa campaign. The selection of Helland came as a surprised to some. In the last Republican presidential cycle, Helland was part of two campaigns that never made it to the Iowa Straw Poll, let alone caucus day. Helland was part of New York Governor George Pataki’s Iowa effort through the 21st Century Freedom PAC in 2006 before joining John McCain’s Iowa caucus campaign. McCain, who had an expansive Iowa staff in the spring of 2007, was forced to let go of his Iowa staff when his campaign wasn’t able to meet its fundraising goals.
Helland is also an interesting pick because Pawlenty has already hired Eric Woolson, Mike Huckabee’s 2008 Iowa Caucus campaign manager. It seems odd to have a guy on payroll that actually won the Iowa caucuses taking orders from a guy who has never run a campaign.
Pawlenty’s strongest asset remains his engaging personality. Before giving his speech in Ames, Pawlenty worked the room, took time to sit down to talk to an older woman at one table, and then made friends with a three year-old at another table. He also took time to talk to college Republicans about their finals. That group made up about one-third of the crowd.
At his Ames event, Pawlenty also told the crowd that he proudly supports the efforts of Strong America Now, an organization that wants to find and eliminate waste in government. Strong America Now is planning to make a major impact on the caucus process in 2012. Pawlenty, who has used the Lean Six Sigma method to find waste in some agencies in Minnesota, seems to want to use the group and its issues much like Mike Huckabee used the Fair Tax in 2008.
Last night, a crowd of 95 packed the Adel Public Library for Tim Pawlenty’s town hall meeting there Tuesday evening. The crowd looked larger than 95 because there were more than a dozen Pawlenty staffers on hand. Recently departed Iowans for Tax Relief president Ed Failor, Jr. was also helping set up for the event, dragging out chairs and moving tables as more people filed into the room.
The former Minnesota Governor hit all the right notes with the crowd during his speech. He was interrupted by applause more than a dozen times, while touching on the usual themes and anecdotes he has used during his many Iowa stops. Although he criticized President Obama several times during the speech, Pawlenty made a point early on to congratulate him for capturing Osama Bin Laden.
“I like the way it was done,” Pawlenty said. “We owe President Obama a tip of the cap.”
He added that President Bush and the U.S. military also deserve our gratitude. Pawlenty later stated that his foreign policy credentials exceed the rest of the GOP presidential field.
One aspect of his speech in which Pawlenty’s rhetoric did not match his record was a comment made about cap and trade. He said, with added emphasis, “I’ve had it with the President and his team outsourcing our energy policies to radical environmental groups.” However, Pawlenty used to be a big supporter of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and a regional cap-and-trade program. He now calls that a stance a mistake, but failed to point to point that out to the Adel crowd.
Overall, it was a solid performance for Pawlenty. Several attendees TheIowaRepublican.com spoke with afterwards were impressed, but not ready to back him yet. It is clear Pawlenty is putting a massive effort into winning Iowa. Tuesday’s event in Adel was a baby step in the right direction.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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