Politics

Pawlenty positions himself as successor to Gov. Daniels in Facebook town hall

In a Facebook town hall Tuesday, presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty positioned himself as the logical alternative to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who announced on Sunday that he would not enter the race for the White House.

Continuing in the same vein as his official announcement yesterday, Pawlenty talked tough about ending ethanol subsidies and reforming entitlement programs.

“There just can’t be anymore sacred cows,” he said, repeating his call for phasing out ethanol subsidies.

He also discussed health care, saying, “we have to repeal Obamacare,” and that he would focus on entitlement reform as a way of reducing the size of government.

Then the former Minnesota governor took one question on the subject of his education policies.

“In the state of Indiana, our governor has been really hard on teachers,” asked one girl. “What is your view of education?”

Pawlenty voiced a position on education similar to the reforms passed by Daniels in the last Indiana legislative session: school choice and vouchers, support for charter schools, and saying that education policy should be geared to help children and should “put their needs first, rather than the interests of adults in public employee union movement.”

The choice of the question seemed deliberate, as a way to position Pawlenty as the natural alternative for Daniels’ supporters.

There was a marked contrast between Pawlenty’s presentation and the way another candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, conducted a Facebook town hall last week.

Pawlenty sat at a table in Florida in front of the U.S. flag and a state flag. He wore a suit and tie and read questions off his iPad, conveying a serious atmosphere and emphasizing his tech savvy.

Romney, who has been accused of being too stiff and buttoned down, wore a shirt during his town hall, with the top two buttons unbuttoned. The town hall took place in Nevada, and in the background were a number of people who had volunteered to make phone calls to fundraise for the former Massachusetts governor.

Pawlenty’s town hall seemed much more produced and polished. But despite the fact that a Facebook town hall is meant to convey the idea that anyone can have access to the candidate, it was clear that both chose their questions carefully.