Pawlenty rides the Straight Talk Expressby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
Clawson, Mich. — Gov. Tim Pawlenty continues to campaign in Michigan today on behalf of presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain.
Gov. Pawlenty is spending the weekend with the Arizona senator trying to encourage voters to back McCain when they vote in that state's primary on Tuesday.
Gov. Pawlenty rode McCain's so-called Straight Talk Express as it crisscrossed the Detroit suburbs Saturday. At both townhall meetings, Pawlenty's job was to introduce McCain.
"Thank you very much. I'd say Oakland County rocks. Thanks for coming out for Senator McCain," Pawlenty told the crowd.
About 1,000 people packed the Clawson High School gym in Clawson, Mich. Many supporters held signs, while others strained their necks to get a glimpse or a photo of the Senator.
"Mac in back. Mac is back. Mac is back," the crowd chanted.
A few months ago, there was no certainty that McCain's campaign would survive this long. Money problems over the summer forced him to cut staff and refocus his message. McCain's New Hampshire victory and a wide open field of GOP presidential hopefuls have him hoping to win the nomination. Pawlenty told the audience that McCain is best suited for the job of president.
"Minnesota and Michigan have a lot in common. We love to ice fish. We love to fish and boat. We have the Great Lakes. We have iron ore and taconite. We like to tease Wisconsin. We like to tease Wisconsin a little bit, good naturedly. We have something else in common in the Upper Midwest, we like straight talk. We like people who are authentic. We like people who are the real deal. We are here today to hear from and support a great American hero in John McCain," Pawlenty told the crowd.
Pawlenty is co-chairing McCain's presidential committee and has campaigned far and wide on his behalf. This is his third campaign trip to Michigan in the past year. He also traveled to New Hampshire three times and made several stops in Iowa. Pawlenty and McCain have also made several trips to Iraq together.
McCain called Pawlenty a dear friend and said he's the future Republican Party. After the introductions, Pawlenty melted into the crowd, giving the stage to McCain.
"Thank you, thank you all very much," McCain said.
McCain's Michigan stump speeches are a bit different than his pitches in New Hampshire and Iowa. He still talks about national defense and spending cuts, but he has focused mostly on reviving the economy. Michigan has been hit hard by job losses in recent years. Cutbacks in the automotive sector have given Michigan the highest unemployment rate in the nation. One of the townhall meetings was held just miles from General Motors' World Headquarters in Warren.
McCain said, if elected, he would better train displaced workers, spend more on research and development and would even provide assistance to workers who are forced to take lower paying jobs. He said many of the traditional blue collar jobs that left Michigan and other states are gone for good.
"No we can't go back. I can't tell the people in South Carolina that the textile mills are coming back. I can't tell the people of Arizona that industries that have left our state are coming back but I can tell you that we will create jobs in a new America, in a new Michigan and a new South Carolina and Michigan will lead the way," McCain told those gathered.
McCain is hoping that Michigan voters appreciate his bluntness. A similar strategy worked in 2000, when McCain won Michigan but eventually lost his bid for the presidency.
Gov. Pawlenty and Sen. McCain are scheduled to hit the campaign trail again today. Pawlenty says he will travel back to Minnesota tonight. McCain won't get too lonely on his bus though. That's because Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, who was the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 2000, will start campaigning with McCain on Monday.>