Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty kicked off his presidential campaign today in a town hall style event in Iowa and sought to fill the “straight talk” vacuum created by Mitch Daniels’ announcement over the weekend that he would not be a candidate for president.
“Conventional wisdom says you can’t talk about ethanol in Iowa or Social Security in Florida or financial reform on Wall Street,” Pawlenty said. “In my campaign, I’m going to take a different approach. I am going to tell you the truth. The truth is, Washington’s broken.”
In a bold move in a state where politicians pander to the ethanol lobby and joke about taking shots of ethanol, Pawlenty said he was here to tell “Iowans the truth, too.”
“The truth about federal energy subsidies, including federal subsidies for ethanol, is that they have to be phased out,” Pawlenty said. “We need to do it gradually. We need to do it fairly. But we need to do it.”
Influential conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh called Pawlenty’s stance on ethanol a move that was “politically gutsy.”
Pawlenty said he will go to Florida tomorrow to “tell both young people and seniors the truth that our entitlement programs are on an unsustainable path and that inaction is no longer an option.”
In New York City later this week, Pawlenty said he will tell “Wall Street that if I’m elected, the era of bailouts, handouts, and carve outs will be over. No more subsidies, no more special treatment. No more Fannie and Freddie, no more TARP, and no more ‘too big to fail.’”
And when he is in Washington, D.C. at the Cato Institute on Wednesday, Pawlenty said that he will “remind the federal bureaucracy that government exists to serve its citizens, not its employees” and “the truth is, people getting paid by the taxpayers shouldn’t get a better deal than the taxpayers themselves.”
Previewing his campaign strategy, Pawlenty said he is the type of candidate who will “unite our party and unite our nation, because to solve a fourteen-trillion-dollar problem, we’re going to need three hundred million people” and he will do this by convincing voters that “leadership in a time of crisis isn’t about telling people what you think they want to hear, it’s about telling the truth.”
Pawlenty then told the audience about his resume, having been a conservative governor in a liberal state for eight years with more than effective results.
He said “I know how to do health care reform right. I’ve done it at the state level. No mandates, no takeovers. and it’s the opposite of Obamacare.”
He said he “took on the public employee unions before it was popular to do it, stood up to the teachers unions and established one of the first statewide performance pay systems in the country,” and “appointed new conservative justices to the state Supreme Court.”
Pawlenty argued that if he could move “Minnesota in a common sense, conservative direction, we can do it anywhere — even in Washington D.C.”
After the speech, Pawlenty entertained numerous questions in a town hall format and seemed effective and more at ease than he was behind the podium, which had a scenic backdrop with an American flag waving placidly behind it.
He answered questions about health care and cited the Mayo Clinic as a model for the American health care system and focused on the threat the country faces by the ballooning debt.
In a media cycle that rewards outrageous and outlandish personalities, can Mr. “nice guy” Pawlenty cut through this filter? From his kick-off event, it seems like Pawlenty will try to do so with his innovative policies as opposed to a strong personality.