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

Romney’s skipping this summer’s Straw Poll

The Wall Street Journal is reporting former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney plans to “skip” the 2011 Iowa GOP Straw Poll in Ames this August.  He follows in the footsteps of John McCain, the GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, both of whom chose not to participate in the event in 2007.

The 1987 Iowa GOP Straw Poll was won by Pat Robertson and a signal of the difficulties then-Vice President George H.W. Bush would face in the 1988 Iowa Caucuses.  (In case you don’t remember, “41” did not win the Iowa Caucuses that year.  Bush came in third, behind Bob Dole and Robertson.  However, George H.W. Bush won the 1980 Iowa Caucuses, a surprise victory over eventual-nominee Ronald Reagan.)

Bush’s son, George W. Bush, went “whole hog” for the 1999 Straw Poll in Ames, spending tons on food, entertainment and tickets — a show of force to the rest of the field in that early test.  Romney himself won the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll, but it did not translate into an Iowa Caucus victory on January 3, 2008.

Iowa Republican Party officials consider the Straw Poll a big fundraising opportunity for the party and a measure of the on-the-ground organizational strength of the campaigns.  A campaign that can turn out Straw Poll voters on a hot August day in Ames is considered capable to doing the same on a cold day in January in precinct meetings throughout the state.

However, the Iowa Democratic Party hosts a similar event and there is no Straw Poll at the party’s Jefferson-Jackson Day banquet.  Even without that “straw poll” measure, the trajectory of successful and unsuccessful presidential campaigns can be traced based on the performances at that event.  The 2007 Jefferson-Jackson Day speech Barack Obama delivered was considered a key turning point in that campaign cycle.  The event showcased the ability of Obama’s Iowa campaign staff to mobilize people, as his cheering section that night “out-cheered”  the rest.

The 2003 Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner was a crucial turning point in John Kerry’s campaign.  The 1999 JJ event was the unmasking of the “stand and fight” Al Gore who roamed the stage and pumped his fists as his people in the crowd cheered, in marked contrast to competitor Bill Bradley, who donned reading glasses to deliver his speech.

Enough about the past.  The Pawlenty campaign has been the most aggressive tonight in responding to the Romney story in the WSJ.

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Pawlenty told to go to Texas…

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, promising to be a truth-telling candidate for the presidency, says it’s time to phase-out federal subsidies for ethanol.  Pawlenty made that phase-out call today during a speech in Des Moines, Iowa — in the heart of corn country.   Now comes a suggestion from the ethanol industry:  go to the heart of oil country and give a speech there about ending petroleum subsidies.  Here’s the statement:

IRFA President Walt Wendland Statement on Former Minnesota Gov. Pawlenty’s Ethanol Remarks

Background:  In Des Moines today, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty discussed phasing out subsidies across all sources of energy, including ethanol.

IRFA President Walt Wendland issued the following statement:

“The ethanol industry is united behind Senator Chuck Grassley’s legislation to phase down and reform the current ethanol incentive as part of the discussion on all energy programs.  We appreciate Sen. Grassley’s leadership on this issue.  Governor Pawlenty’s remarks today appear to be in line with Sen. Grassley’s approach for ethanol reform.  We welcome his support.

“Gov. Pawlenty further pointed out that energy incentive reforms must be across the board.  We agree that the massive amount of federally funded petroleum incentives must be a part of any reform discussion.  Iowans look forward to Gov. Pawlenty further detailing his plans to ‘phase out’ petroleum subsidies, perhaps in a speech in Houston, Texas.”

Walt Wendland is the CEO of Golden Grain Energy near Mason City, Iowa and Homeland Energy Solutions near Lawler, Iowa.  He is currently serving his second term as President of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association was formed in 2002 to represent the state’s liquid renewable fuels industry. The trade group fosters the development and growth of the renewable fuels industry in Iowa through education, promotion, legislation and infrastructure development.

Pawlenty kicks off campaign with call for end to ethanol subsidies

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is formally kicking off his campaign today in Des Moines, on a rooftop bathed in sunlight and cooled slightly by a gentle breeze.   I’m sitting in the back, around the corner, in the shade, by the guy who’s running the teleprompter.

With the golden dome of the Iowa statehouse glowing in the background, former US Attorney Matt Whitaker — Pawlenty’s Iowa campaign chairman — began the event by telling the crowd the schedule of events and promising the crowd they’d be able to ask Pawlenty questions after T-Paw’s speech.

Mary Pawlenty gave a personal testimonial about her husbsnd, saying she met him in 1983 and “knew I had met somebody extraordinary.”  She used the phrase “salt of the Earth” to describe Pawlenty’s family.  And she praised her husband’s “internal compass,” saying it “is set so true that he always found a way to lead Minnesotans to a better place.”

Mary Pawlenty said she was all-in when it came to supporting her husband. “All that I know and all that I have witnessed…has me supporting him in equal measure with my heart and my head,” she said.

Pawlenty was up next and by 11;38 a.m. Iowa time he had made the formal declaration: “I’m Tim Pawlenty and I’m running for president of the United States.”

Pawlenty told the crowd the country is “in big trouble” and it will take a “new and better president” to fix things.

There were a number of references to truth-telling. “I’m going to take a different approach. I’m going to tell the truth,” Pawlenty said.

Pawlenty’s truth-telling included a message to Iowans who back subsidies for corn-based ethanol fuel. “We need to do it gradually…but we need to do it,” he said.  According to Pawlenty, the free market, not “freebies” from government, should determine success of all industries, “including ethanol.”

Pawlenty continued: “Someone has to say it.  Someone has to finally stand up and level with the American people.  Someone has to lead. I will.”

Former Iowa football player signs with T-Paw

I know it’s been a long time since Matt Whitaker played football at the University of Iowa, but former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty says he’s glad Whitaker is on his “team” and there’s a lot about “Winning!” in the press release, hence the headline.


URBANDALE – Former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker will chair the Iowa steering committee of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican who has formed a 2012 presidential exploratory committee.

“Tim Pawlenty is a proven leader and a winner. He was elected and re-elected in one of the most heavily Democrat states in the nation, and he did it while remaining true to his conservative values and principles. What that meant for Minnesota voters was a governor who finally stood his ground against higher taxes and spending increases while reforming health care, improving education and making state government more efficient,” Whitaker said. “That’s a sharp contrast to President Obama’s record in Washington. I’m ready to work hard to see that Governor Pawlenty is our next president.”

Whitaker is the managing partner of the Des Moines law firm, Whitaker Hagenow GMBG. He served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa from 2004 to 2009, prosecuting federal crimes such as mail and wire fraud, public corruption, child pornography, firearms violations, narcotics trafficking, corporate fraud, and terrorism financing.

Whitaker received his undergraduate, master of business administration and law degrees from the University of Iowa, where he was a tight end on the 1990 Big Ten Champion football team and played in the Rose Bowl game and the 1991 team that played in the Holiday Bowl.   Following graduation in 1995, Whitaker moved to the Twin Cities and worked for the law firm of Briggs & Morgan. In 1998, Whitaker joined SUPERVALU, a Fortune 500 grocery company, as corporate counsel. In 2001, Whitaker and his family moved back to Iowa and he joined the law firm of Finely Alt Smith where he remained until his appointment as United States Attorney.  In 2002, Whitaker was the GOP nominee for state treasurer.

“Matt Whitaker is a man who knows what’s important and he gets things done,” Pawlenty said. “That’s been true from his days as a member of the Iowa Hawkeyes team that played in the Rose Bowl to his determination as a U.S. Attorney who prosecuted dangerous criminals and put them behind bars. Iowans know and respect Matt Whitaker.  We’re very happy and blessed to have him on our team.”

What the “candidates” are saying

Here are the statements on Osama bin Laden’s death from three four potential GOP presidential candidates. 

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More background on Failor, Iowans for Tax Relief

As The Iowa Republican reported Monday, Ed Failor, Junior, has resigned his post as president of Iowans for Tax Relief.  Here’s The Des Moines Register story from Jennifer Jacobs; one written by Cedar Rapids Gazette reporter James Q. Lynch includes quotes from a Failor interview.

Failor sent these comments in an email yesterday:

…You may be asking “why?”.

Well, after 16 great years, I resigned as President of ITR on Friday.

ITR has great leadership, staff, and history. They are in very capable hands and will continue to be a powerhouse in Iowa policy and politics.

I am moving on to pursue exciting opportunities. I will let you all know specifically what’s next at an appropriate time.

The Muscatine-based group has been influential in Iowa politics for decades.  It was founded in 1978 by David Stanley of Muscatine, a state representative in the 1960s and ’70s who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate twice.  His grandfather had been a state senator, too. 

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Pawlenty uses Trump line, mentions birth certificate controversy

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is one of the speakers at todays’ Save Our American Republic (SOAR)/ Tea Party Rally at the Iowa statehouse.  Pawlenty made it clear he’s not in the camp of folks who believe President Obama was not born in Hawaii.

“Now, I’m now not one to question the authenticity of Barack Obama’s birth certificate,” Pawlenty said. “But when you look at his policies, I do question what planet he’s from.”  The crowd cheered.

Pawlenty directly mentioned Donald Trump in his remarks.

“Now, I know Donald Trump is getting a lot of attention and he’s a bright and successful and accomplished person,” Pawlenty said. “But you know there’s a least the one thing that I think we should embrace from his other TV show, ‘The Apprentice’ and we should tell President Obama in 2012, ‘You know what? You’re fired.'” The crowd cheered; a few even repeated the “You’re fired!” line.

Pawlenty’s remarks at rally (13 min)
I’ll be back with more when my fingers thaw.

Branstad on Herman Cain, “The Donald” (AUDIO)

On Friday, Jennifer Jacobs of The Des Moines Register asked Governor Branstad what he thought of Herman Cain.  “He’s made a good impression,” Branstad said, among other things. “…I think he’s serious about this and you never know.”

“Is he more serious than “The Donald”? Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson (that’s me) asked as a follow up.

“Well, we’ll see,” Branstad said, dissolving into laughter along with those around him.  “You got me to break up on that one.  The Donald, as you call him, hasn’t been to Iowa yet, although he did send an aide here. But he’s going to have to come and spend some time…The way the system works, even though you might be a very successful business person and a TV personality, they still want to see you on the ground, in Iowa, meeting with real people and answering tough questions.”

Gov. Brandstad on Hermain Cain 1 min+

Branstad made his comments as he left Iowa Public Television in Johnston, Iowa, where he had taped a weekend appearance on Iowa Press.  Cain is due to speak at a TEA Party/SOAR (Save Our American Republic) rally late this morning in Des Moines.  Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is due to speak about an hour before Cain at the same rally.

Ankeny PD releases 911 tape of Pawlenty-staffer-gate

The Des Moines Register has posted the audio.  It’s the 911 tape of an Ankeny woman who called police to report a man (later identified as a staffer for former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty) had tried to break into their home early Wednesday morning.  The staffer — who’s been charged with public intox & trespass — had misjudged where he was staying, by about 10 miles.