With Michele Bachmann Riding High, Fellow Minnesotan Tim Pawlenty Focuses on Iowa

In sixth place in the polls, former governor hits the airwaves and gets backing from legislators
By: Kevin Derby | Posted: June 28, 2011 3:55 AM
Tim Pawlenty

Tim Pawlenty | Credit: Flickr- Gage Skidmore

While a fellow Minnesotan, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, is garnering the headlines and momentum in the Republican presidential contest in Iowa, home of the first caucus contest, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty looked to generate some traction of his own Monday as he doubled down his efforts in the Hawkeye State.

For Pawlenty to have a shot at the Republican nomination, he will have to do strongly in Iowa -- especially as New Hampshire, home of the first presidential primary, appears locked up for Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.

A poll released over the weekend from the Des Moines Register showed that Pawlenty has some work to do if he wants to be a factor in Iowa, which neighbors the North Star State.

The poll had Romney, the current front-runner for the Republican nod, taking 23 percent, with Bachmann -- who formally launched her campaign on Monday in Iowa -- a whisker behind him with 22 percent. Businessman Herman Cain, another favorite of the tea party movement, took third with 10 percent while former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas tied for fourth with 7 percent. Pawlenty was not much of a factor in the poll, as he stood in distant sixth place with 6 percent, followed by former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania with 4 percent and former Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah with 2 percent.

Looking to turn things around, the Pawlenty campaign focused heavily on Iowa on Monday. The Pawlenty team released a radio ad, attempting to introduce voters to the dark-horse candidate.

“Minnesota,” says the announcer in the ad. “Not exactly a conservative place. Then came Tim Pawlenty, widely recognized as the most conservative governor in Minnesota history.

“For decades, Minnesota spending had grown at 20 percent,” the announcer continues. “Tim Pawlenty shrank that down to 1 percent, and cut spending in real terms for the first time in history. But that's not all. Pawlenty did heath care reform the right way. No mandates. No takeovers. And on nominating judges? Pro-life Pawlenty turned a liberal Supreme Court into a conservative one.”

“If I can do it in Minnesota, we can do it in Washington,” insists Pawlenty in the ad.

Pawlenty also announced on Monday that 10 members of the Iowa Legislature were joining his “Iowa Legislative Steering Committee.”

“I am fortunate to have this talented group of legislators on my team,” said Pawlenty on Monday. "Their experience and knowledge combined with their eagerness to restore American prosperity bolsters my Iowa campaign's efforts to build successful coalitions in this important state.”

The group consists of three state senators -- Rob Bacon, Randy Feenstra and Shawn Hamerlinck -- and seven representatives including Majority Whip Erik Helland, who is Pawlenty’s state director, and Assistant Leader Steve Luskan.

While Pawlenty gathers endorsements from legislators, he may face more rivals for the Republican nomination. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas continues to leave the door open for a presidential bid of his own and so does former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who will be hitting the Hawkeye State next week.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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