Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty visits Iowa State Fair

In the top photo, Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey (a Republican) walks/talks with Pawlenty as the two stroll down the Grand Concourse of the Iowa State Fair. 

The bottom photo shows the duo at the grill in the Iowa Pork Producers stand at the Iowa State Fair.  This is a rite of passage for political candidates.  U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) was manning the same grill about 45 minutes later.  Harkin, who is not seeking reelection and didn’t really “broadcast” his events on the fairgrouds this year, chatted and flipped chops for about 20 minutes before pouring water for people who’d paid for a pork chop dinner and were sitting under the Pork Producers tent.

Pawlenty chatted with me briefly after he had donned an apron and the preparations were being made for his State Fair grilling experience.

He wisely didn’t declare a winner in the Iowa State Fair versus the Minnesota State Fair competition. 

“My first impression is this is a fabulous state fair and I think Iowa and Minnesota have two of the best state fairs in the country,” Pawlenty said, “so we’re proud of both.”

I asked him about the results of this past week’s primaries.

“The way I look at it is there’s a little bit of a mixed story.  Different states had a little different results, but each state is different.  It has its own culture and tradition, it’s own perspective on the direction of the party.

“But I think the consistent theme is the Republican Party remains a conservative party and you’ve got people who are very concerned about the direction of their states who have stepped forward and it’s good to get these primaries…done so that we can focus on the real battle which is growing jobs and growing the economy and hopefully getting Republicans back in control in the Iowa legislature and Minnesota and elsewhere.”

As Pawlenty stepped toward the high heat of the charcoal grills, I stepped to the side and asked one of the pork producers who’s been working the grill if he’d given up his post reluctantly or with gusto. “It’s all right!” said the pork producer, who is from Cass County, Iowa, and stood aside as Pawlenty manned a spatula.  “I don’t have to do it, and I can get cool.”

Pawlenty at the Dubuque Country Club

Pawlenty poses for photo with GOP congressional candidate Ben Lange

Pawlenty poses for photos

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.

List of potential 2012 candidates who’ve visited Iowa

Here a list I’ve compiled of Republicans who’ve visited Iowa since November 4, 2008 (Election Day) and are/have been considered potential presidential candidates in 2012.



  • Congresswoman Michele Bachmann: appearance via video at Iowa Tea Party State Convention in November, 2009;  keynoter for Congressman King fundraiser in April, 2010. 
  • Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich: American Future Fund event in Davenport, Iowa House GOP fundraiser in Cedar Rapids, Polk County GOP fundraiser in May, 2010; candidate training, fundraiser for congressional candidate Brad Zaun, July, 2010.
  • Congressman Ron Paul: campaign fundraiser for state senate candidate Kent Sorenson in November, 2009; keynoter for Campaign for Liberty conference in Des Moines in May, 2010; keynoter for Iowa GOP convention-eve event in June, 2010.
  • Congressman Mike Pence, Iowa GOP fundraiser in Linn County,  Congressman King fundraiser in July, 2009; appearance via satellite at an Iowa GOP rally in Iowa City in April, 2010.
  • Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum: American Future Fund speech to Dubuque, appearances in central Iowa in October, 2009; keynoter for Iowa Christian Alliance event in March, 2010; keynoter for luncheon at Iowa Republican Party state convention in June, 2010.

Additional notes

Nevada Senator John Ensign was in Iowa early in June of 2009 to deliver an American Future Fund lecture. Lots of stories were written at that time, describing Ensign as a potential 2012 candidate.  It was right before the story broke about Ensign’s affair, ending such speculation.

On the Democratic side of the ledger, President Obama has visited Iowa three times since November 4, 2008.  Obama was in Newton on Earth Day, 2009.  Obama was in Iowa City on March 25, 2010. Obama was in southeast Iowa/Ottumwa on April 27, 2010.

Vice President Biden was in Iowa, campaigning for Governor Chet Culver, on May 18, 2010.  (He mentioned the BFD.)  Biden was also the keynote speaker at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Day fundraiser in November, 2009.

Santorum will be back, as will Pawlenty

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2012, will be back in Iowa next month.  He’ll headline a fundraiser in Sioux Center for Brenna Findley, the GOP candidate for attorney general.

No word on a Santorum drop by at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, which would be a five hour drive away from Sioux Center.  The fair starts the next day, on August 12. 

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, another potential presidential candidate in ’12, plans a visit to Iowa on the 11th and 12th of August.  He’ll headline a fundraiser for GOP congressional candidate Brad Zaun and go to the State Fair.  Pawlenty is due in Iowa this weekend, too, for events in northeast Iowa.

Pawlenty plans trip to eastern Iowa

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, a potential 2012 candidate for president, plans to campaign in Iowa in late July/early August on behalf of Republican candidates for the state legislature.

“Governor Pawlenty is working hard to help conservatives around the country win this fall,” Alex Conant, communications director for Pawlenty’s Freedom First PAC, said via email.  “We have great opportunities in Iowa, and Governor Pawlenty is trying to build on that excitement through his new Iowa PAC and this upcoming trip to eastern Iowa.”

Pawlenty has three fundraisers (morning, noon & night) planned on July 31 for Republicans Steve Lukan, Bill Dix and Kraig Paulsen.

He”ll help Republican Jeff Kaufmann raise money on August 1 and on August 2 he’ll speak at the Scott County Lincoln Club in Davenport.

Pawlenty was the keynote speaker at the Iowa GOP’s fall fundraiser this past November (read about it/listen to it here).  Pawlenty was the keynote speaker at the Iowans for Tax Relief “2010 Taxpayer’s Day” event in April (read about it/listen to it here).  In August of 2008, when Pawlenty’s name was among those mentioned as a potential running mate for John McCain, Pawlenty made a campaign appearance in Ames, Iowa, on behalf of Congressman Tom Latham (read about it/listen to it here).

DMR “Iowa Poll” on 2012 presidential impressions

The Des Moines Register has a taken a poll about Republicans who may run for president in 2012.  Beyond the top three with “most favorable” impressions, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is unknown to 80 percent of the Iowa Republicans surveyed.  (This despite former Governor Branstad’s tendency to cite Daniels in his stump speeches as he campaigns for a fifth term.)  Neighboring U.S. Senator John Thune of South Dakota is “unknown” to 71 percent of those surveyed.

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has made a few trips to Iowa, and he’s not quite as unknown according to the survey.  He was unknown to 53 percent of those surveyed.

Here’s the link to the DMR Poll story — you’ll see former Massachusetts Governor Romney, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (in that order) had high favorable ratings.  Very few people surveyed — only three percent — had not formed an opinion about Palin.  The survey was conducted June 1 through 3, mostly AFTER Palin endorsed Terry Branstad late on June 3 and angered Bob Vander Plaats supporters.   “She’s dead to me now,” was one of the comments I heard last Saturday as I walked into the venue where Bob Vander Plaats was to have a rally.

Iowa Taxpayer’s Day: Pawlenty & 5 candidates for governor

Iowans for Tax Relief is hosting an event in Des Moines this afternoon and at 2:41 p.m. I am inside, with a green wristband, sitting at a table covered by a green table cloth.  I see several Republican legislators and statehouse lobbyists in the crowd.  They’ll hear from Minnesota Governor/prospective 2012 presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty first, followed by five candidates for governor — the three Republican candidates, plus independent candidate Jonathan Narcisse and Libertarian candidate Eric Co0per.

A woman and a man in the front row are wearing matcing t-shirts which have artwork on the back depicting street signs.  One street is named “Bite Me Boulevard” and the other is “No Frickin’ Way.” I’m curious as to what the front of this t-shirt has to offer,  At 2:47 p.m. former Governor Terry Bransad enters the room, spots a person he knows sitting right behind the woman with the t-shirt and Branstad urges this person to get a relative who is going to be gone June 8th to cast an absentee ballot in the primary.

At 2:50 p.m. former Governor Robert Ray entered the room, with David Oman, a 1998 candidate for governor who served as Ray’s chief of staff. 

Shortly after three o’clock Iowans for Tax Relief founder welcomed the crowd, with a Tax Day joke. “If you’re still hurting from Thursday, perhaps you can take comfort in the advice of an IRS agent:  ‘You’ll feel better if you can learn to stop thinking of it as your money,” Stanley said.

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Roberts presents himself as a uniter, not a divider

Perhaps you remember watching the Bradford family in the popular weekly series called, “Eight Is Enough.”  Republican gubernatorial candidate Rod Roberts today suggested sixteen is enough when it comes to the number of years someone named Branstad may serve as governor.

Roberts is the guest on this weekend’s “Iowa Press” on IPTV which airs at 7:30 p.m. tonight.  During the program, Roberts suggested he was a uniter not a divider and the more palatable alternative to competitors Terry Branstad and Bob Vander Plaats.   Here’s the key portion of the show:

Roberts:  “The Republican Party does have an issue and in the other two candidates — former Governor Branstad and Bob VanderPlaats — it’s very apparent  that people who support either of those two candidates have a real problem with the other candidate.  We do have disunity within the party.  I believe that helps the alternative — Rod Roberts — to be the candidate who can appeal to Republicans who might naturally support Bob Vander Plaats or be more comfortable supporting Terry Branstad, but who are concluding a divided Republican Party after the primary cannot succeed against Chet Culver.

“We need a candidate who we can all rally behind and unite behind.  I’m that candidate because a united Republican Party can then go into the general election and, with a united front, then make an appeal to independents and at least conservative Democrats to build the base we need to defeat Chet Culver.”

Question from me: “You have referred to yourself as a new face.  Governor Branstad is seeking a fifth term.  You referenced Bob Vander Plaats as having run for governor for most of the past decade.  Are you trying to fashion yourself as the anti-incumbent?”

Roberts: “I think there is a strong, anti-incumbent mood right now and it’s certainly stated that our elected officials in Washington, DC are unresponsive to the will of the people and there’s strong term-limit sentiment expressed toward Washington, but I think here in Iowa you find people also concluding with former Governor Branstad 16 years is a long time for someone to serve in that office and you’re asking for another four years for a total of 20 and a lot of Iowans find it very difficult to believe that any one person can be that indispensible to leading as governor.

“And with Bob Vander Plaats, you have somebody who has been working at this for the better part of a decade.  People know who he is and it’s almost that there’s a weariness that’s crept in and I’ve undercovered this. It’s like, ‘You know what? We’re moving on and we’re looking for someone new to get behind and support.’

“And I’ve attracted a lot of those people who formerly may have been supporters of Bob Vander Plaats, but they’re very happy to be on board with me…I do believe I’ll be the surprise candidate on June 8.”

Roberts, along with his two Republican competitors, are scheduled to speak tomorrow at Iowa Taxpayer’s Day in Des Moines.  In addition to those three GOP candidates, independent gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Narcisse and Eric Cooper, a Libertarian candidate for governor, will also speak at the event which is sponsored by Iowans for Tax Relief.  Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is to be the keynote speaker.

Steve King discusses Palin, 2010 election, Christmas Day bomber

Congressman Steve King (R-Kiron, Iowa) is the guest on this weekend’s edition of “Iowa Press.”  It will air at 7:30 p.m. Friday on Iowa Public Television and again Sunday at 11:30 a.m.  The show was taped late this morning.  (IPTV has posted the video here.)

King said after the show’s taping that the Christmas Day/”underwear” bomber should be sent to Cuba and tried in a military tribunal.

At the end of the program which will air this weekend, King was asked about the field of Republicans who may run for president in 2012.  Here’s the transcript from that exchange:

AP’s Mike Glover: “We’re starting to see the first early signs of Republicans floating through the state, preparing for Iowa’s precinct caucuses. Give me your take on those people who’ve been out front as potential candidates in 2012.  How strong a field is it?  How big will it be? How large?  How active will it be?”

King: “That is a really good question, but when I look at this I think that, I mean, Mike Huckabee, of course, has a really good organization here in this state.”

Glover: “Tim Pawlenty’s been here.”

King:  “And Pawlenty. I don’t know that Pawlenty has an organization like Huckabee’s, although Sarah Palin, of course, is the one that’s got the charisma. She has the momentum.  If she decides to come to Iowa, she has no problem drawing a crowd of tens of thousands would be my guess.”

Glover: “Do you think she’ll run?”

King: “It looks now like, um, who knows? You know, I’ve guessed her wrong before.  I thought she’d made a career decision that would be hard to bounce back from.  It looks like she’s bounced back from it and gone on from there so she brings some extra talent to the table.  Her instincts are good and her philosophy is good.  I think she’s been working on burnishing her foreign policy credentials.  I think we’ll see her in Iowa.”

Iowa Press moderator Dean Borg: “And you think she could win the Iowa Caucus?”

King: “I would say that there are a good number of people that could win the Iowa Caucus and I would put her in the top four or so of the people who would be in a good position to do so, Dean.”

King also said he doesn’t know if he will endorse a 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate before the June primary.

“I don’t know.  I really don’t know,” King said. “I’ve looked across this field…and boy, they’re good people and so I’d like to see ’em fight this out because it tests their vigor and their tests their ability and it also shapes the policy for Republicans that’ll be matched up against the policy that’s been set by Governor Culver. I think Governor Culver is wobbly.  I think that he is vulnerable…Iowans have been pretty good about granting people who are good public servants extra terms in office…but I think this is the time.  I think there will be a Republican governor and there are many reasons for it and the budget is the biggest reason.”   

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2010 Iowa GOP gubernatorial candidates take stage

The Iowa Republican Party’s gubernatorial candidates for 2010 will share the stage this evening.  Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty was the keynote speaker for this event and he finished shortly after seven o’clock.  Next, each of the gubernatorial candidates will be given 10 minutes behind the microphone.

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