Pawlenty @ Strong America Now event (audio)

Three Republican presidential candidates intend to speak this Saturday morning at a “Strong America Now” event in Des Moines.  At 9:48 a.m. on a Saturday morning as the event gets underway it’s difficult/impossible to see the crowd as this room in the Polk County Convention Center  is masked in darkness.

The focus of this event is reducing/eliminating the federal budget deficit. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is the first candidate to speak.  At 10:33 a.m., a jumpy video of Pawlenty begins showing on the two big screens flanking the stage.  At 10:34 a.m. Pawlenty gets to the stage, wearing a wireless microphone on his suit, but not wearing a tie on his shirt.

Pawlenty began with a story about George Washington admonishing the person at the front of the boat that went across the Delaware, then Pawlenty said it was time for the federal government to “quit tipping the boat with this debt and deficit” which Pawlenty said is “suffocating” the country.

Pawlenty said the country needs a “stronger and better president of the United States” and he accused Obama of lacking a vision for the country. “All he has is a campaign plan,” Pawlenty said.

Pawlenty then asked a series of questions about candidate Obama and President Obama, asking if Obama had kept his promises.  The crowd responded: No.

Pawlenty told the crowd other Republicans candidates would stand before them outlining their campaign promises, but he cautioned the crowd: “An important question for you is, ‘Who’s actually done this?’ Who has the skills and the ability and the record to actually do it, not just talk about it because the hour is late. We’ve had enough politicians talking. We need results.”

Pawlenty expressed support for a constitutional amendment that would require a balanced federal budget and he repeated his call to phase out ethanol subsidies over time, getting applause from the crowd on both accounts.

“If we can do it there, we can do it anywhere,” Pawlenty said of his record in Minnesota. “…We drove down spending to historic levels…but our party…needs leaders who are seasoned, serious….and can govern and lead.”

AUDIO: Pawlenty speech 14 min

There was a brief Q&A and the first question was about the folks who say Pawlenty left his successor a deficit.  “It is simply not accurate,” he said.

The questioner asked about Pawlenty’s tax record in Minnesota, and his pledge not to raise federal taxes if he’s elected president. “I am going to stick with it,” Pawlenty said.

Last question was about deficit reduction.  Pawlenty spoke with reporters.  I asked him about the shellacking he took after the New Hampshire debate (Pawlenty repeated what he said on Hannity’s show) and followed up by asking whether he believes Republicans want a candidate who takes swings at his GOP competitors and President Obama.   “I think Republicans are going to have some issue differences and so I think it’s appropriate…to highlight those differences, but it needs to be done in a way that doesn’t focus on personalities or personal stuff.  I think just talking about the issues is appropriate and for the most part I think we should stay focused on President Obama, but where there are significant material differences between us, I’m sure that can and should be part of the debate.”

Craig Robinson of The Iowa Republican asked Pawlenty to comment on Romney not signing a pro-life pledge. “I’m not sure why he didn’t that. You’d have to ask him and his campaign why he chose not to do that,” Pawlenty said.

Listen to the exchange with reporters: PawlentyJune18After

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Thank you for being our eyes and ears on the ground in Iowa. Some of us are really interested in hearing as many details as possible.