About 60 people are gathered in a banquet room at the Dubuque Country Club for a fundraiser benefitting State Representative Steve Lukan, a Republican seeking another term in the Iowa House. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is due here as the “draw” or keynote speaker at the event. The windows on the far side of the room look out over the golf course, showing the haze that still hangs in the air. Heavy fog blanketed the state this morning, hence Pawlenty’s delayed arrival at the Dubuque Airport. I’m told he is wheels down, on his way here.
Things got rolling a few minutes earlier than the 9:30 tee-off time, despite Pawlenty’s delayed arrival. Dyersville Mayor Jim Heavens delivered the invocation, suggesting he’d been asked to pray because “heavens” is the seventh word in the Bible. Mayor Heavens prayed about potential Iowa voters giving Pawlenty and others seeking office this November a look, asking God to “open their ears, open their eyes, but — most importantly — open their hearts.”
It’s 9:34 a.m. and the crowd is hearing the standard stump speech from State Senator Kim Reynolds, the GOP’s nominee for lieutenant governor (which means she’s GOP gubernatorial nominee Terry Branstad’s running mate). She talked about “not-withstanding” language, but soon moved to talking about the stable of candidates for state office. “Please join us and work hard and talk to friends and family. Let’s get people out to vote,” Reynolds says. “….It’s just opportunities all over the place this year.”
She finished up at 9:37 a.m. Next candidate invited to speak: Ben Lange of Independence, the GOP candidate for the first congressional district. “If we don’t take a stand this November…we will know…a significantly different America than the one you grew up in and I grew up in,” Lange said. “…The path that we’re on (is) unsustainable….We are spending money that we simply don’t have.”
He gets his first burst of applause by decrying government-run health care. Lange a few moments later told the crowd he’s encouraging people not to vote for incumbents this year.>”Boo,” said Rep. Lukan, the person who is the beneficiary of this fundraiser. The crowd laughed.
Lange wrapped up his speech, then got the “stretch” signal, so he opened it up to questions. The first question he gets is about health care and how to repeal it. “i’m also a realist. It’s going to take two-thirds in the House and two-thirds in the Senate to repeal it, so the chances of that are slim. That is why the House of Rep. is so key,” Lange answered, suggesting the House, under Republican control, could “defund it.”
The second question is about health care, too, about the “supply side” — doctors, nurses, etc.
Reynolds, in response to another question about state issues, says voters have had the impression there’s been no difference between Republicans and Democrats. “We’ve tried to give them a clear vision of how we will respond and react when we are in leadership,” Reynolds said.
As the time drags on and Pawlenty’s arrival is further delayed, the event becomes a Q&A for the congressional candidate. Immigration reform, term limits, Charlie Rangel are all topics he’s asked to address.
“They unfortunately had fog in Minneapolis,” a woman announces to the crowd as Pawlenty walks into the room.
“We had a little weather in Paul,” Governor Pawlenty said at 10:14 a.m. as he took the microphone from a very relieved Steve Lukan. Pawlenty apologized for his tardy arrival, then gave the mic to his wife, Mary. “She’s got some Iowa roots,” the governor said.
She told the crowd their flight out of MN had been delayed by the “better to be safe than sorry plan.” Mary Pawlenty said she, as a political spouse, has had the opportunity to sit through “lots and lots and lots of campaign speeches…and you hear the same jokes, although I still think they’re hilarious.”
She told the crowd one of her husband’s greatest strengthes was “his ability to talk to us about issues from health care to foreign policy to the budget,” and she said her husband has the ability to “inspire.” She talked about her family roots in the Decatur County/Leon, Iowa area, where her grandmother lived. “Been back many times,” she said of summer treks to southern Iowa.
“It’s completely gorgeous here. I wish we could stay a lot longer,” she said of Dubuque, then handed the mic back to her husband.
Pawlenty began with a story/’joke, about a talking frog. An “elderly, wise Minnesota woman” came across a talking frog at the side of the road who said to the women, ’If you kiss me on the lips I will turn into a very handsome man,’” Pawlenty recounted.
Pawlenty told the crowd that elderly woman put the frog in her pocket. The frog became agitated, asking the woman if she’d missed the part about the kissing and the handsome man he’d become.
Pawlenty delivered the punch line: “She said, “yea, I heard ya, but at my age, I’d rather have a talking frog.’”
Then he moved quickly into his speech. “We have to get back to what’s real and what’s authentic,” Pawlenty said. “…We have a nation that is adrift …headed in a dangerous direction.”
Pawlenty talked about what he called “misguided” liberals. “We need to stand up and fight back,” he said.
Pawlenty talks about his Freedom First PAC, the American dream and the American spirit (this is the core of his standard stump speech). Pawlenty tells the crowd “busy, hard-working people, they may not even notice:” the loss of their freedoms, but he said “patriots” do see it and “need to rise up and say, Enough.’”
Pawlenty told the crowd Republicans need to remind the public of the dangers of tyrrany “gently and constructively.”
He talked about God, the creator. “We should remember that these privileges come from our creator, not from our congressman,” he said.
Next up, a discussion of quality of life — a reference to RAGBRAI and to Bret Favre leading the Vikings to the Super Bowl, which drew laughter.
He said one of the “common denominators” to quality of life is: “You’ve got to have a job….so the pathway to quality of life is dependence on making sure we have places where our economy is growing…and making sure that we do those things that encourage not discourage (economic growth).”
He specifically mentions the federal budget deficit. “We need to do something that’s very straightforward. We can’t spend more money than we have,” he said, before talking about some fo the budget-cutting he’s done as governor of Minnesota.
Next, he told people he was born in 1960, and a few seconds later joked: “Yes, that makes me 50 this year….I got my AARP card in the mail the other day,” Pawlenty said, to laughter. ”….I don’t want to see that.”
Back to the budget-cutting message. “Govt has to live within it’s means,” he said.
As for health care: “If you want to reform health care…..we don’t drag it into Washington, D.C….create a one-size-fits-all system and then expect that to work when they create the impression it’s free.”
Pawlenty closed his speech by praising Republican candidates who’ve stepped forward “It’s noble work,” he said of Republican candidates in the room who are seeking public office. “…We’ve got enough goofballs in politics.”
Questioner #1 urged Pawlenty to ”take this challenge in Paul Revere fashion” and talk specifically against some federal programs, like cap and trade. “This could be a wonderful first step for you by being very specific,” the questioner advised.
The next questioner asked about the bailout for the auto industry, which she called “ridiculous.” “I know you’re interested in running for president,” she said, saying Iowans are “looking at you” to offer a counter argument to Democrats.
Pawlenty shared a bit of biography. “I come from a meatpacking town…When I talk about these economic issues…I want you to know I have a background and a life experience (there). “…I think the bailout of the auto industry was a joke….there are mechanisms in place…and it’s called bankruptcy.”
Pawlenty complains about the concept of “too big to fail,” suggested it has led to a federal deficit that is “too big to pay off.”
“…We’ve got a set of federal leaders who are too small to even do anything about it,” he said.
When the woman followed up, asking what the solution was, Pawlenty replied: ”Get a new president and a new congress and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
As for the Wall Street companies that got bail-out bucks, Pawlenty said: “Next time it happens, let ‘em go bankrupt….Would the world really be worse off if we didn’t have AIG? I don’t think so.”
Pawlenty concluded his remarks. “I’m willing to plant a flag and fight,” Pawlenty said. “…Thank you for listening.”
Rep. Lukan gave Pawlenty a hand-made, “custom model” baseball ball. “Bill Clinton has one, George Bush has one,” Luken said.