If Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty isn’t running for President in 2012 then he must really love this state. Of all of the potential 2012 nominees who have visited Iowa, I believe he’s had the 2nd most visits. Mike Huckabee has definitely been here the most because of campaigning for Bob Vander Plaats, and Newt Gingrich has been here quite often as well and coming back soon. Ron Paul has been here a couple of times this year.
But the attention over the weekend was on Pawlenty who tore into President Barack Obama, saying in Waverly, IA that his diplomacy was sending “weak signals” as Tom Beaumont reported on Saturday:
The Republican weighing a 2012 presidential campaign pointed to the Democratic administration’s pull-back from a missile defense program in eastern Europe and its announcement that it would begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in 2011 as shaky national security policy.
“I think it sends at best mixed signals and at worst weak or equivocal signals, and that’s not healthy,” Pawlenty said in a Des Moines Register interview after headlining a Waverly fundraiser for a GOP legislative candidate.
Pawlenty, on his first extended swing through Iowa, focused his criticism of President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress on spending programs. He named health care legislation an example of uncontrolled spending and the bailout of the U.S. automotive industry as excessive government intervention.
But Pawlenty also cited strained relations with Israel as a sign the U.S. image around the world had slipped under Obama.
“We need to make sure there’s no confusion on where we stand, what we stand for and who we stand with,” Pawlenty said at the Waverly fundraiser. “And there are terrible examples of this administration and our national leadership sending messages of equivocation when it comes to our best friends and allies.”
In Dubuque, IA his advice to the crowd gathered was to get a new president (listen to his remarks in the audio player above). In an interview with Radio Iowa he touted his experience and pointed out that many of the problems that the Obama administration has had is due to his lack of experience:
During an interview with Radio Iowa as he traveled from one event to another, Pawlenty declined to directly compare his executive experience with potential 2012 competitor Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, but Pawlenty did contrast his time governing a state of five million with President Obama’s performance governing a nation of more than 300 million.
“If you’re going to run something large and complex, it helps to have run something large and complex previously,” Pawlenty said of Obama, who was an Illinois state senator, then a U.S. Senator for two years before his election as president in 2008. “I think, candidly, one of President Obama’s short-comings, now that he’s managing the crisis, for example, in the Gulf is he doesn’t have any sort of experience or perspective to fall back on because he’s never led a large organization.”
Pawlenty is certainly positioning himself well in Iowa should he choose to run. He registered his Freedom First PAC in Iowa, he’s campaigning for legislative candidates in Iowa, and he’s generally likeable. He will be competitive in the Iowa Caucus.
This is what presidential candidates need to do if they want to be competitive in Iowa. It will be interesting to see who else will step up. Rick Santorum has been here recently. I mentioned above that Newt Gingrich has made numerous visits. Haven’t seen Mike Huckabee here after Bob Vander Plaats lost his gubernatorial primary bid, but he will still be a strong contender. I believe Mitt Romney has registered a PAC here as well, but hasn’t visited much. I still don’t see him winning here. Ron Paul looks to have great organization here in Iowa again with Campaign for Liberty. It will be interesting to see if Sarah Palin will make another visit here soon. She hasn’t been here since her book signing event in Sioux City.
While 2010 is the focus, it is becoming quite clear that the race for 2012 is well underway. Pretty soon we’ll be tripping on presidential candidates out here, one of the blessings of living here.