Pawlenty's latest Iowa swing increases profile, spreads messageby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
Cedar Rapids, Iowa — Gov. Tim Pawlenty wraps up a string of fundraisers in Iowa on Monday with a morning speech to Republicans in Davenport.
Minnesota's governor has been neck deep in Iowa politics over the past few days, raising money for local politicians. He's also enhancing his own profile in the state that holds the first caucuses of the presidential election.
Pawlenty's latest trip to Iowa took to him five cities in the eastern part of the state. Similar to trips to New Hampshire, home to the first primaries of the presidential election, Pawlenty speaks in Iowa without notes and sticks to a well-rehearsed message.
Pawlenty said the country is on the wrong track. He concentrates on economic and foreign policy issues rather than hot-button social concerns.
"When it comes to government, there's a lot of complex, big things," Pawlenty said. "But there is some simple, basic, common sense that we have to demand ... government can't spend more than it has."
Virtually all of the people who met the governor at the Dubuque Golf and Country Club are active Republicans -- many of them current, former or aspiring office-holders themselves.
The local Republican candidates are able to raise money around his visit for their respective races. On this trip, every candidate Pawlenty speaks for gets at least $500 from his political action committee.
"So much of politics is about IOUs," Drake University professor of politics Dennis Goldford said. "So it's easy for a potential presidential candidate to come in and say, 'Hi, you're Joe Blow, you're running for state representative. I like what you're doing and I want to give you some support.' That's a tremendous help to Joe Blow, and the candidate will hope that Joe Blow remembers that when it comes to the Iowa caucuses."
Goldford has been watching Iowa politics from his Des Moines office for 25 years. In addition to making early friends, he said Pawlenty's relatively low-profile visits give him a chance to polish and refine his message.
Pawlenty's standard stump speech has gotten considerably shorter and tighter over the past several months and he seems more at ease.
Some of the people who see Pawlenty at the various stops said they will back him if he runs for president. Others said it's too early to make a commitment. Some said they will begin taking sides early next year, around the time when Pawlenty said he'll make his decision.
Most said they were more concerned about the economy and national security than issues like same-sex marriage.
Steve Lukan, the assistant minority leader of the Iowa State House, was delighted Pawlenty came to Dubuque to raise money for his re-election committee -- even though he has no opponent this November. Lukan said Pawlenty is doing the right things to make friends in Iowa, and that Pawlenty has the right message.
"I think for a lot of Republicans, we're very concerned about the level of national debt," Lukan said. "We're concerned about the level of job creation or lack thereof and we want somebody who's going to help move our economy forward and who's going to help put our country on sound fiscal footing."
Lukan said he thinks Gov. Pawlenty can do that.
Despite all of his appearances, Pawlenty almost always registers in the single digits in Republican presidential preference polls -- his showing was 3 percent in the most recent poll in New Hampshire. Goldford said Pawlenty's low profile could be an asset, because the goal in early presidential politics is to beat expectations.
"Somebody like Governor Pawlenty, not very well known, fairly low poll recognition, is almost in a better position," Goldford said. "Because you're so little known to begin with, the expectation bar is so low and you can exceed that relatively easily."
Pawlenty will be back in Iowa in less than two weeks for more fundraising, along with an appearance at the Iowa State Fair.