After listening to Tim Pawlenty at CPAC, I, along with many others, was immediately struck by what seemed liked a bizarre attempt at a southern drawl during his appearance at Iowa’s Faith and Freedom Coalition’s cattle call of potential GOP presidential aspirants.
Exaggerating a southern accent is not anything new in politics or, for that matter, sports. LSU head coach Les Miles and Alabama head coach Nick Saban both sound a bit more southern since they have migrated from the Midwest to the South.
Minnesota’s NPR station did a report on Pawlenty’s newfound accent.
Here’s the report:
Asked about it after a speech last weekend in New Hampshire, Pawlenty said he sometimes doesn’t “use the exact king’s English.” But he added that he’s not adopting an accent to project a folksy image.
“Anybody who actually follows me closely or has looked at these speeches over the years knows that from time-to-time I do that, and it wasn’t some sort of strategic decision for that group,” Pawlenty said. “I’ve done it in Minnesota. I’ve done it in other places.”
Supina, the architect who contacted MPR News about the way Pawlenty sounded, said he’s followed Pawlenty closely for years, and never heard him speak like he did in Iowa. “I’ve heard Pawlenty speak a lot since he was a state representative,” Supina said.
Pawlenty faces two problems here if the press harps on this. One, it reinforces a potential harmful narrative that he is willing to do anything to make himself less boring. Second, such questioning could become a major distraction as a press with decreasing attention spans focus more on his cadence than the substance behind it. It’s something Team Pawlenty has to watch and monitor going forward.