Pawlenty endorses Romney

Former Massachusetts Governor Tim Pawlenty dropped out of the Republican presidential race on August 14.  Not quite a month later, he has endorsed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Vilsack takes the T-Paw challenge

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty offered up a “prize” during last night’s debate in Ames to anyone who could “find Barack Obama’s specific plans” on the “most pressing financial issues of our country.”

Pawlenty’s prize? “I will come to your house and cook you dinner or, if you prefer, I’ll come to your house and mow your lawn.”

I just talked with U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor who has just moved to Ames, Iowa. Vilsack said he could “very easily” win Pawlenty’s prize.

“I don’t have much of a lawn for Tim to mow,” Vilsack said, “but dinner would be fine.”

Here is Vilsack’s entry for T-Paw’s contest:

“It’s simply stated this way: a government that spends less, but invests resources wisely to grow the economy. The economy is one that creates, makes and innovates products that the rest of the world wants and so therefore we export, creating wealth and jobs in this country. And the proof of this formula that it works is agriculture.

“Farmers, with less debt (and) investments in research, have led to extraordinary productivity gains…We’re able to produce new products…as well as exporting grains and livestock to the rest of the world. We’ve created $135 billion of economic activity this year, which is a record in agricultural exports. Every billion dollars of sales generates 8400 jobs.

“And the president has been focused on trying to create that same formula in manufacturing which is why we’ve seen manufacturing job growth over the course of the last 15, 16 months. The auto industry is a good example of things that are coming back.”

Round 2: Gingrich v. media, Santorum v Bachmann, Pawlenty v RomneyCare

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was the central character in the opening of round two of tonight’s debate in Ames.  Gingrich rapped Chris Wallace of FOX News, accusing him of asking “gotcha questions” and followed that a bit later by referencing “Mickey Mouse games” in the media. It’s a media Gingrich alleged pays too little interest to “the ideas that distinguish us from Barack Obama” and too much attention to campaign minutia.

It also bears mentioning in this context of confrontation-with-the-media that Romney, in round one of the debate, also hit back Bret Baier of FOX News with, “I’m not going to eat Barack Obama’s dog food,” when pressed to say whether he — Romney — would have vetoed the debt ceiling deal congress passed earlier this month.

It was also in this round that Santorum criticized Bachmann for a sort of all-or-nothing strategy on legislating and governing.  “You need people who are good at leadership, not showmanship,” Santorum said.

Pawlenty near the end of this round was given another swing at the “RomneyCare” question he was asked in the last debate.

“I don’t want to miss that chance again, Chris,” Pawlenty said, saying “RomneyCare” was a “fair label.” Pawlenty also poked at some other points of Romney’s record as governor, saying, “we’re going to have to show contrast, not similarities” with President Obama.

Romney was allowed to jump in at this point. “I think I liked Tim’s answer at the last debate better,” Romney quipped.  He offered his 10th amendment defense.

Bachmann was then asked whether she believes states have the authority to require people to buy health insurance.  “Government is without authority to compel a person to purchase a product or service,” Bachmann said.

Paul, when he was asked to weigh in, said both parties have developed a medical system that is “based on corporatism.”

Santorum jumped in, arguing there are limits to states rights, such as when states try to allow polygamy.

Pawlenty on pledges and Perry

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has been presenting himself as the alternative candidate to the “flavor of the day” list of potential presidential candidates. This morning during a telephone interview with Radio Iowa Pawlenty hinted Texas Governor Rick Perry’s star power may be diminished once he gets into the race.

“I’d expect Rick will run,” Pawlenty said. “I think that is increasingly clear. I like him. I’ve traveled with him internationally. We were governors at the same time together and so I have a lot of respect and regard for Rick Perry, but my campaign doesn’t rise or fall as to whether other people do or don’t get into the race. Everybody brings certain strengths and weaknesses to the campaign and, you know, there’s always an early phase of people coming in and getting some initial buzz and then things settle in once you have to do all the interviews and get questioned and have all the articles scrutinize you.

“I know Rick. I think he’ll be a strong candidate, but like I said, my candidacy doesn’t rise or fall depending on whether other people get into the race or not.”

Later this morning Pawlenty will appear at the “Values Voter Bus Tour” stop in Des Moines.  The leader of the National Organization for Marriage is on the tour, too — and Pawlenty is one of three candidates who have signed NOM’s pledge, promising to fight efforts to make gay marriage legal.  The NOM pledge is much shorter than The Marriage Vow circulated by The Family Leader in early July.

“As to The Family Leader pledge, I certainly support the policy goals of traditional marriage and the pro-life cause, but I thought the wording of that particular pledge was not the right tone and it didn’t express those policy positions in a way that I was comfortable with or that I liked and so even though I supported the policy goals, I wanted to express my support for the pro-life cause and traditional marriage in my own words,” Pawlenty told Radio Iowa this morning. “As to the other pledge, I thought it was worded in an acceptable fashion, so I signed that one.”

I asked Pawlenty if voters are making decisions in 2012 based on these issues, or whether people are more focused on the economy.  “Republican voters in Iowa and across the country are very concerned about the economy and jobs. Obviously, that’s one of the most pressing issues facing our nation,” Pawlenty replied. “I’ve got the most specific pro-job, pro-investment plan of any candidate in the race, but many voters also are interested in other issues including pro-life issues and marriage issues and health care and public employee compensation and illegal immigration and much more. And that’s why I’ve got a good message to share with Iowans because I’ve got a record on all of these things of advancing those issues and getting things done in a way that I think Republicans and conservatives, more broadly, appreciate and support.”

Economy dominates; S&P downgrades (audio)

Pawlenty in Tiffin

Four Republican presidential candidates spoke earlier this evening in Tiffin, Iowa (in the Clear Creek Amana high school cafeteria) to Republicans in the area.  Two of them in particular (Tim Pawlenty & Newt Gingrich) hammered away at President Obama’s handling of the economy. Gingrich suggested the economy’s in such horrid shape “we need to actually try to solve problems before the election.”  Gingrich also suggested the president was inept. “We have a president who combines, in a remarkable way, radicalism with incompetence,” Gingrich said.  Pawlenty said Obama would be “beaten comfortably” if the election were held today.

The economy was the top drawer issue during the daylight hours on the campaign trail.  Tonight came word that Standard & Poors has downgraded the long-term U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA.  Two candidates have issued statements.

Statement from Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann:

“Tonight’s decision by S&P to downgrade our credit rating to AA+ is a historically significant and serious event for the United States. The United States has had a AAA credit rating since 1917. That rating has endured the great depression, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the terrorist attacks on 9/11. This President has destroyed the credit rating of the United States through his failed economic policies and his inability to control government spending by raising the debt ceiling.

“We were warned by all of the credit agencies that a failure to deal with our debt would lead to a downgrade in our credit rating, but instead he submitted a budget that had a $1.5 trillion deficit and then requested a $2.4 trillion blank check. President Obama is destroying the foundations of the U.S. economy one beam at a time. I call on the President to seek the immediate resignation of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and to submit a plan with a list of cuts to balance the budget this year, turn our economy around and put Americans back to work.”

Statement from former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain:

On Tuesday, April 19, 2011, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner promised that America faced “no risk” of a credit downgrading. Less than six months later, he is proven shamefully wrong. As I have feared for months, the S&P has chosen to downgrade America’s credit rating from AAA, which we have always enjoyed, to AA+.

Perhaps this is because the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats never once demonstrated a willingness to propose its own ideas for meaningful spending cuts, something credit agencies signaled were necessary to redeem America’s financial standing in the world.

As a corporate executive, I’ve rescued companies from the brink of bankruptcy and returned them to profitability. That involved balancing budgets or even creating them in the first place, something that the Democratic leadership in Congress hasn’t done for 828 days. If I couldn’t run companies without budgets, how can the government?

I also had to make tough budgetary cuts to save companies. Leadership is about doing what’s right, even when it’s difficult. But somehow, that sort of idea was never floated among those within the Obama Administration.

Now, Americans are fearful for their retirements and for their children’s educational savings. This is a country known for dreamers and innovators, for thinkers and doers. And now, we are a nation living in fear.

This is a sad day for America. Such a rating is unfitting of the greatest and most prosperous nation the world has ever known. And such a weak leader is, as well.

[Read more…]

#’12 T-Paw says: “It’s gut-check time” (audio)

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty spent over an hour on a hockey rink early this afternoon, shuttling on and off the ice to play a pick-up game at the Metro Ice Sports Facility in Urbandale, Iowa.

Wearing the number ’12 — for 2012 — and a campaign-themes blue jersey, Pawlenty scored “barely” goal by his own admission. I saw him check Matt Whitaker, his Iowa campaign co-chair, into the boards once. (Whitaker is a former University of Iowa football player who plays hockey this days, for fun.)  Many Pawlenty staffers were in the stands, wearing campaign hockey jerseys, Sarah Huckabee Saunders among them.  Pawlenty called his time on the ice “good old exercise” and admitted that he went down on his backside “more than once” during the session.  He also did a sort of belly-flop on the ice, pictured above.

AUDIO: Pawlenty spoke with reporters soon after he stepped off the ice

Pawlenty was asked about the debt talks in DC.  As others continued to skate on the rink,  the sounds of hockey sticks slapping the ice and pucks crashing into the boards punctuated Pawlenty’s answer:  “It’s gut check time for the Republicans and for the whole congress, but let’s remember that President Obama is the leader of our entire country and he needs to quit hiding and ducking and bobbing on the issues of real reform. Why won’t he come before the American people and explain in detail why he doesn’t support a constitutional amendment to balance the budget? Where is his specific plan on Medicaid reform? Where is his specific plan on Social Security reform? Where is his specific plan on Medicare reform? I mean, he allegedly whispers about it in private. We don’t need a whisperer-in-chief or a president who hides in the basement. Have him come on out and explain to the American people what he’s going to propose.”

Pawlenty said he favors cut, cap and balance, but sinc e the Senate today has rejected it: “They’re going to have to think of what they’re going to do next,” he said of Republicans in congress. “Give them a little time to get their next plan together.”

Pawlenty then was pressed about speculation that someone connected to the Pawlenty campaign had pushed the Bachmann migraine story.  “I can tell you I checked with our staff and they indicated directly and unequivocally they didn’t push the story,” Pawlenty said. “…I didn’t go talk to, you know, the summer interns and the college kids…I’m confident that our campaign did not push that story.”

Pawlenty did the interview still clad in his hockey gear, clutching his stick, one glove on, the other glove off.  It was reminiscent of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry’s pick-up hockey game in November of 2003 at the other big ice arena in Des Moines, where the Des Moines Bucs play.

Doctor’s note about Bachmann’s “good general health”

GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann took a question this morning about the “migraine story” and this afternoon her campaign has released a letter from a doctor  attesting to her “good general health.”  Rival Tim Pawlenty addressed Bachmann’s fitness for the presidency during a Q&A with reporters early this afternoon, saying candidates for the office must prove “they can do all of the job, all of the time.”  The statement from the Bachmann campaign is below:

Des Moines, Iowa – Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann released a letter today from The Attending Physician of the United States Congress addressing her health in regard to experiencing migraine headaches. Dr. Brian Monahan, MD, MACP, describes the Congresswoman’s status as “overall in good general health.”

Dr. Monahan further notes: “Your migraines occur infrequently and have known trigger factors of which you are aware and know how to avoid.” The doctor adds that Bachmann is “able to control” those infrequent occurrences with prescribed medication.

The score is now 3-2 against “The Marriage Vow”

Two more Republican presidential candidates have announced they will not sign “The Marriage Vow” drafted by The Family Leader and unveiled at a statehouse news conference (which you can listen to here).

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is not signing The Vow and his campaign issued the following statement:

“Mitt Romney strongly supports traditional marriage but he felt this pledge contained references and provisions that were undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign.” – Andrea Saul, Campaign Spokeswoman.

The Romney camp also released a statement from State Representative Renee Schulte of Cedar Rapids, who is part of Romney’s Iowa leadership team:

“One of the reasons I support Gov. Romney is his support for traditional marriage. However, I am glad he won’t sign this ill-advised pledge. The Family Leader would do more to advance the issues that conservatives like Mitt and I support if they kept it simple.”

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty isn’t signing The Vow either.  Here’s his statement, released by the Pawlenty campaign early this afternoon:

Mary and I have been married for almost 24 years and have been blessed with two wonderful daughters.  In all we do, we remain committed to our core values that are set out in scripture.  We are saved by grace.  As Christians we are to speak the truth, but to do so with love.
“Voters have a right to know about their leaders’ faith and values, and how those beliefs may shape their decisions. To that end, today my campaign released a new video in which both Mary and I speak directly and openly about our faith.  I fully support traditional marriage.  Unequivocally.  The traditional family faces enormous challenges in America, and if elected I would vigorously oppose any effort to redefine marriage as anything other than between one man and one woman.
“I deeply respect, and share, Bob Vander Platts’ commitment to promoting the sanctity of marriage, a culture of life, and the core principles of the Family Leader’s Marriage Vow Pledge. However, rather than sign onto the words chosen by others, I prefer to choose my own words, especially seeking to show compassion to those who are in broken families through no fault of their own.

“I respectfully decline to sign the pledge.”

Here’s a link to that video Pawlenty mentioned.  (The Pawlenty campaign is running a radio ad in Iowa, inviting listeners to go online and watch the video.)

Pawlenty and Romney — by both saying no to The Vow — join Gary Johnson in refusing to sign it.  Newt Gingrich said this week in Pella that his campaign’s policy director is recommending some language adjustments to the document before he would sign it.  Michele Bachmann and Rich Santorum both signed The Marriage Vow, before language mentioning slavery was edited from the document.

The Marriage Vow got the Stephen Colbert treatment on last night’s Colbert Report.

Pawlenty style? “Nice AND strong” (audio)

Republican presidential candidate is holding a town hall meeting at his Iowa campaign headquarters this afternoon and a man in the crowd just urged Pawlenty to present a “strong demeanor” on the campaign trail.

Pawlenty replied:  “Know that I’ve got more than one gear.”  Pawlenty talked about setting a record for vetoes as governor of Minnesota and other milestones during his two-term tenure.

“The loudest guy or woman in a bar usually isn’t the toughest…and heck, you know, I’m an old hockey player and I’ve probably been in more fights than all these candidates combined,” Pawlenty said.

He then talked about Ronald Reagan’s style, suggesting he was emulating it.  “Courteous, civil, decent, but strong…You can be nice and strong. You don’t have to be a jerk to be strong. You can be nice and strong and that’s the lesson and the style that I have.”

The crowd applauded.

AUDIO: Exchange between Pawlenty and man in crowd

S. Huckabee on the Pawlenty team

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s daughter, Sarah, was a fixture on his 2008 campaign team.  She was the lone “staffer” to travel with the former governor back to Iowa in July of 2008 for the Iowa GOP state convention and she accompanied him on most of his yearly book tour treks through Iowa.  Now, an announcement today: Sarah Huckabee Sanders has just joined the Pawlenty 2012 effort, for the pre-Straw Poll push. (Pawlenty already has Huckabee’s 2008 Iowa campaign manager Eric Woolson on board. The other Huckabee 2008 staffer in Iowa, Wes Enos, is working for Michele Bachmann, the other Minnesotan in the 2012 race.)

Read the campaign news release below:

Sarah Huckabee Sanders Joins Pawlenty for President as Senior Political Adviser

URBANDALE, IOWA – Sarah Huckabee Sanders is joining Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s presidential campaign as senior political adviser. She begins her new role in the campaign’s Iowa headquarters today, taking the lead for the campaign on the Iowa Straw Poll effort with a focus on expanding the campaign’s grassroots operations across the first-in-the-nation caucus state.
“Sarah is a results-oriented person with a great track record in Iowa and around the country,” Gov. Pawlenty said. “We are very excited Sarah is joining our team just as we are hitting our stride in Iowa.”
“I’m delighted to join the Governor and First Lady in Iowa, which holds a special place in my heart,” Sanders said. “It’s clear to me that Gov. Pawlenty has what it takes to unite the party, unite the country and beat President Obama.”
In 2007-08, Sarah Huckabee Sanders helped lead her father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, to victory in the Iowa caucuses as his national political director. In 2010, she was campaign manager for John Boozman’s successful U.S. Senate campaign in Arkansas. Sarah was recently named one of TIME Magazine’s “40 under 40” and is widely recognized to be one of the best political operatives of her generation. Sarah is a full-time consultant with Tsamoutales Strategies, a transnational consulting firm.