Pawlenty reaches out to new audience on 'The Daily Show'by Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Political analysts are giving Gov. Tim Pawlenty good reviews for his appearance on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" last night.
"The Daily Show" is a must for politicians with national aspirations and host Jon Stewart wasted no time Thursday night trying to pin down the governor on his plans.
Pawlenty played along.
"I'm going to run for president ... of my youth soccer league," he told Stewart.
"What? Damn you Pawlenty!" Steward replied.
Usually when Pawlenty appears in the national media -- like today when he was on ABC's "Good Morning America" -- he wears a suit and tie. But on the Daily Show Pawlenty was much more laid back. He wore blue jeans and sport coat and talked about the growing national debt as something any reasonable person, regardless of political affiliation, should be concerned about.
Pawlenty used his hands to show government revenue is decreasing as spending increases.
"Any eighth grader can look at a graph with spending like that and revenues like that and say 'We've got a problem,'" he said.
"I disagree with you," Stewart said. "I think a lot of eight graders could look at that and say 'pretty hands.'"
Stewart treated Pawlenty in a friendly and respectful way. At the same, he took an indirect shot at Republican superstar Sara Palin who quit her job as governor of Alaska midway through her first term.
University of Minnesota Assistant Professor Heather LaMarre researches political entertainment and social media and said making it onto the Daily Show was a big deal for Pawlenty and should help him appeal to a young, internet-savvy audience that votes.
"He's breaking through to an entirely new market, media market, but beyond that, he's also breaking through to a group of people that are really difficult for politicians to reach through regular news and more traditional avenues."
In addition to the televised conversation with Pawlenty, Stewart taped two segments that weren't on the program, but were featured on the Daily Show's popular website.
LaMarre said that sent a positive message to Stewart's audience.
"While he was disrespecting Palin in his jokes, he was respecting Pawlenty in his actions," LaMarre said.
Washington University Political Science Professor Steven Smith agrees the Daily Show appearance was a big development for Pawlenty if the governor has national ambitions. Smith thought Pawlenty did a good job in the way he looked and spoke.
"He comes across as a genuine person who's articulate, who has a moderate flexible kind of personality and yet who articulates strong conservative values and principles and for the most part, that's what we saw here," Smith said.
Smith said not only was Pawlenty trying to appeal to a new audience, he was also trying to show that he can appeal to people outside the Republican Party's base.
"You want to show Republican insiders across the country that you're capable of appealing to that audience," Smith said.
The web extra taping segments ending with Pawlenty, once again, tap dancing around whether he's running for President. And Stewart teasing him in a way mainstream journalists back in Minnesota cannot.
Stewart: "So what's the deal? Are you running?"
Pawlenty: "I don't know," Pawlenty replied.
Stewart: "I feel like you are."
Stewart: "I just get it from ... it's in your eyes. You've got the eye of the tiger in you right now, you've got a little bit of the fire in your belly. You're making argument that people don't make unless they want to move to that other arena. "
Still, once again, Pawlenty insisted he hasn't made up his mind about a run for the White House.