Former Minnesota Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a likely 2012 presidential contender, courted the Tea Party this weekend, headlining the Tea Party Patriots American Policy Summit in Phoenix, Ariz. His speech hit familiar notes, touching on the importance of smaller government and less government spending, while at the same time taking frequent jabs at President Barack Obama and his administration.
“I’m not one who questions the existence of the president’s birth certificate,” he told the audience, according to prepared remarks. “But, when you listen to his policies, don’t you at least wonder what planet he’s from? We don’t share President Obama’s worldview.”
Pawlenty, who has been an outspoken supporter of Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s efforts to end collective bargaining for public-employee unions in his state, attacked President Obama for taking the unions’ side, using part of the Constitution’s preamble — “in order to form a more perfect union” — to do so.
“Mr. President,” he said, “that does not mean coddling out of control public employee unions. And Mr. President, Wisconsin does not need a lecture from somebody who’s never balanced a budget in his life.”
Invoking former New York gubernatorial candidate Jimmy McMillan, Pawlenty called for smaller government.
“Do you remember the guy who ran in the NYC mayor’s race who ran his entire campaign on a simple motto?” Pawlenty asked the audience. “He said over and over: ‘The rent is too damn high!’ So here’s our simple motto: The Government’s too damn big!'”
Pawlenty headlined the three-day event and was one of three potential Republican presidential contenders — former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain and Texas Rep. Ron Paul were the others — slated to speak.
Mark Meckler, co-founder and national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots, said that other potential candidates were invited as well.
“We invited virtually everyone who has been thrown out as a possibility, including President Obama,” he explained. “Those who are speaking are those who chose to attend.”
Pawlenty has said he will announce whether or not he will run for president in the next few weeks.