Pawlenty praises McCain in Iowa campaign stopby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
Gov. Pawlenty is back in Minnesota after spending Thursday campaigning in Iowa for Arizona Sen. John McCain. Pawlenty is the co-chair of McCain's presidential exploratory committee and says he made the trip to give McCain encouragement. Pawlenty's latest trip increases speculation and criticism over his national ambitions.
Ames, Iowa — Pawlenty hit the road for John McCain just four months after he finished the round-the-clock campaigning that helped him win re-election.
Thursday's campaign swing saw Pawlenty shaking hands and talking with Republican activists, going on talk radio and introducing McCain at two town hall meetings in Ames and Mason City.
"There's a great old adage: the best sermons aren't preached, they're lived. There's a lot of politicians who are going to roll through here and flap their jaws about this or that. John McCain doesn't do the talking. He does the walking," Pawlenty said.
Pawlenty said nothing at the meetings after his introductions, ceding the floor to McCain to tout his conservative credentials. McCain highlighted his opposition to legalized abortion, his support for gun owners' rights and his stance on the Iraq war.
McCain is one of the few national politicians who has backed President Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq. He said a total troop withdrawal from the country would only encourage others to attack the U.S.
"I believe it has a good chance of succeeding and I guarantee you the consequences of failure. The consequences of failure are chaos and genocide, and we'll be back and they'll follow us home," McCain said.
McCain relaunched his so-called "straight talk express" bus on his most recent trip to Iowa with the hopes of capturing the excitement surrounding his campaign for president in 2000.
Pawlenty rode the bus with McCain from Ames to Mason City, but some say it's Pawlenty who's carrying McCain among conservative Republicans.
"Gov. Pawlenty is the ace in the hole for McCain's campaign. He needs help and Pawlenty is the Republican go-to guy in the Upper Midwest," according to Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota.
Jacobs says McCain has been trailing in several state and national polls to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Several national conservative groups have also criticized McCain for not being conservative enough. Jacobs says Pawlenty is popular among conservatives and can use that clout to help McCain.
Jacobs also says Pawlenty's actions in recent weeks show that he has national ambitions. Besides his trip to Iowa, this month he has also made his third trip to the Middle East and appeared at a conservative conference in Washington D.C.
"Tim Pawlenty is helping John McCain, but he's also helping Tim Pawlenty," Jacobs said. "Tim Pawlenty is building his bona fides as a major new Republican face in the country."
Reporters at both campaign events asked McCain and Pawlenty about the possibility of the two sharing a national ticket. When asked in Mason City if he would consider Pawlenty, McCain said "of course," but cautioned that it was way too early to speculate.
"First of all, I haven't thought about it and it would be very premature at this particular stage. But certainly Gov. Pawlenty has a leadership role to play both in Minnesota and the nation, in my view," McCain said.
Pawlenty also said he's happy being governor and brushed aside speculation that he's lining himself up for national office.
Some state lawmakers say Pawlenty should be spending more time on legislative business. DFL Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller says it's the governor's choice to be as engaged as he wants in the legislative session, but would like to see Pawlenty more involved.
"He's concentrating on the horizon, his political horizon, more than he's concentrating on the day-to-day activity of the legislative work in front of us. But that's his choice. It's his second term. He wouldn't be the first governor who perhaps was looking for greener pastures," Pogemiller said.
Pawlenty has been careful to mention that his trip to Iowa was a one-day appearance. He also added that he met with legislative leaders earlier in the week.
Some residents of Browns Valley say they're not happy that Pawlenty was in Iowa as they had to deal with flooding in their community. About 100 people were evacuated and about 50 homes were damaged by the flooding on the Little Minnesota River.
Jim, who declined to give his last name, says he lived in the Browns Valley area for 30 years. He says he's disappointed with the governor.
"He's the governor of our state and he's campaigning for some guy out of Arizona or some place. Who knows? He should be tending to his business. That's what I think," he said.
Pawlenty said he would have cancelled his trip to Iowa if he was needed in Browns Valley. He says local officials assured him him they had everything under control.
"It would have been a different situation if the local officials said the problem was continuing, and the waters weren't receding or they needed help. That isn't what they told us, and so they indicated that coming on Friday would be just fine," Pawlenty said.
Pawlenty is scheduled to tour the area and meet with local officials later today.