Politics

Tim Pawlenty teases Washington with more hints of presidential run

Chris Moody Contributor
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The road to the White House is paved with book deals, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is right on cue with the release of his new book, which he rolled out Thursday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C

Pawlenty is officially “undecided” as to whether he will run for president, but if his travel schedule, book, media appearances and focused stump speech are indicators, he most likely will join the Republican horserace, and plans to announce his candidacy in March.

“I’m seriously considering it,” Pawlenty said Thursday when asked about a run for the presidency.

Aside from his new book, “Courage to Stand,” which tells his rags-to-riches life story and ends with a chapter that directly rebukes the policies of President Obama, Pawlenty visited battleground states including Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida and South Carolina in the last year. His new “First Freedom” political action committee is steadily raising money.

Fresh from the governorship, Pawlenty appears to be working to establish himself a traditional conservative. Beyond pounding away with a small-government, low spending message, he does not shy away from social issues. During a recent interview with Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association for example, Pawlenty said he supports overturning the recent repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for gays in the  military and in his speech, he said illegal immigration was “corrosive” to American society.

Early reports have labeled Pawlenty as a guy who’s too soft-spoken for the rigors of fiery presidential politics, but there was little indication Thursday that he was afraid to throw punches. Pawlenty took a combative tone at times, sharply rebuking the administration and accused federal spending practices as an example of “eighth-grade mathematics,” calling it “irresponsible,” and “reckless.” He slammed Obama for eliminating a government program in Washington that provided scholarships for poor children to attend elite private schools. “Shame on them,” he said. He took on the health care law passed last year and said that if rising health care costs continue to be ignored, “it will take down the country or at least impair it.”

“Something is amiss,” Pawlenty said of the struggling economy. “The American sense for hope is diminished.”

“Just because we follow Greece into democracy does not mean we need to follow into bankruptcy,” he added.

As he makes his way toward the campaign trail, Pawlenty will also likely tout his record as a conservative governor of a traditionally liberal state. (Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson once quipped it’s nearly the equivalent to Ronald Reagan being elected to rule Sweden.)

Although Minnesota faced billion-dollar deficits at the end of his time as governor, Pawlenty fought to reduce spending on the state level and vetoed nearly 300 bills in eight years. The libertarian Cato Insitute awarded him with an “A” grade on its fiscal report card, a distinction only offered to four sitting governors that year.

“If we can do it there, we can do it anywhere,” he said.

At this point only one candidate, Atlanta-based radio host Herman Cain, has officially announced that they will challenge Obama in 2012, but others are expected to announce their intentions within the next few months.  A mid-term poll of Obama’s job performance released this week showed that voters are split on their approval of the president.

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