New Pawlenty ad spins candidate as a winner

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty started running his presidential campaign’s second television commercial in Iowa today. The 30-second spot describes victories for Pawlenty in battles with public workers and Democrats in Minnesota.

Most of the Republican presidential candidates haven’t launched paid advertising in Iowa yet, but Pawlenty needs to make headway before the Republican Party of Iowa’s straw poll in Ames, now less than six weeks away. His camp also appears to be feeling pressure to halt Representative Michele Bachmann’s momentum in Iowa.

The video, annotated transcript and other news from the Pawlenty campaign are after the jump.  

Annotated script:

[wintry scenes, “2004” on screen, photos featuring word “STRIKE”]

Male voice-over: “Minnesota gripped by one of the longest transit strikes in history. Why?

[visual switches to photo of Pawlenty next to words “DID NOT CAVE to UNIONS Pawlenty 2012” on screen]

Voice-over: Because Governor Tim Pawlenty refused to cave into government unions.

[more footage/photoes of Pawlenty, words on screen PAWLENTY WON  Pawlenty 2012]

Voice-over: Result? Pawlenty won.

[picture of Minnesota state capitol, 2005, followed by word SHUTDOWN on screen, then scene from public protest]

Voice-over: Minnesota government shut down. Why?

[footage of Pawlenty speaking to an audience, then highlighted segments of newspaper headlines: “veto of tax bill,” “Pawlenty holds the cards”]

Voice-over: Because Tim Pawlenty would not accept Democrats’ massive tax-and-spending demands.

[footage of handshake, audience members standing and applauding, Pawlenty smiling, then words PAWLENTY WON on screen]

Voice-over: Result? Pawlenty won. Tim Pawlenty. Results, not rhetoric.”

[photo of Pawlenty waving, Pawlenty 2012, on screen]

Pawlenty’s voice: I’m Tim Pawlenty, and I approve this message.

Pawlenty has been touting his tough stance during the 2004 Metro bus strike for a long time, but public-sector union wages and benefits have become a more salient issue this year. Governors from both parties have sought to curtail health and/or retirement benefits for public workers. It’s a safe bet that even without knowing any of the details, Iowa Republicans would support a politician taking on transit workers.

The five-day-old Minnesota government shutdown has been in the news this week, especially since Iowa barely avoided a similar standoff. I view a shutdown as a sign of failure to agree to a reasonable compromise, but the typical Iowa Republican caucus-goer probably would approve of Pawlenty’s refusal to cut a deal involving tax increases. (Other actions by Pawlenty as governor led to significant property tax increases, but that’s a topic for another day.)

I sense an unspoken contrast with Bachmann, the other Minnesota candidate in the GOP presidential field, in this commercial as well as in the first spot Pawlenty’s campaign aired in Iowa. The “results, not rhetoric” tag suggests that other Republicans may talk a good game, but Pawlenty has walked the walk.

Pawlenty has reason to be worried about Bachmann. He needs to win the Iowa caucuses, or at least finish a close second, to move forward in the presidential race. But the Des Moines Register’s latest Iowa poll by Selzer and Co indicated that Bachmann is running neck and neck with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney among likely Republican caucus-goers. The same poll put Pawlenty way back in a virtual tie for fourth place with Representative Ron Paul and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Pawlenty has more state legislator endorsements than anyone else in Iowa, but Bachmann is closing that gap with five public supporters in the Iowa Senate. In the past week her campaign added Senator Brad Zaun as statewide co-chair and picked up endorsements from Senators Nancy Boettger and Mark Chelgren. Outside Iowa, Zaun is best known as the weak candidate who couldn’t capitalize on the 2010 Republican wave to beat Representative Leonard Boswell in Iowa’s third Congressional district. But Zaun has a strong base in Republican vote-rich Urbandale, a large suburb of Des Moines where he was elected mayor before winning two terms in the Iowa Senate.  

I doubt that $38,000 worth of Pawlenty commercials in Des Moines and Ames will do much to extend his support from the Iowa Republican establishment to the rank and file. At some point Pawlenty may need to make an explicit case against rivals for the “not Mitt Romney” niche.

Readers of the Des Moines Register got a preview of what Pawlenty’s case against Bachmann might look like on June 28. The op-ed page ran a guest column by Ron Carey under the headline, Bachman is so not ready for the presidency, but Pawlenty has the judgment and skills. Excerpt:

As the former chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party during the tenure of Gov. Tim Pawlenty, as well as the former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, I have watched both candidates from behind the public scene. I’ve seen how they handle the pressures of the job; I’ve seen how they lead a staff; and I’ve seen how they would govern if elected to the most powerful office in the world.

Having seen the two of them, up close and over a long period of time, it is clear to me that while Tim Pawlenty possesses the judgment, the demeanor, and the readiness to serve as president, Michele Bachmann decidedly does not.

The Bachmann campaign and congressional offices I inherited were wildly out of control. Stacks upon stacks of unopened contributions filled the campaign office while thousands of communications from citizens waited for an answer. If she is unable, or unwilling, to handle the basic duties of a campaign or congressional office, how could she possibly manage the magnitude of the presidency? […]

I find myself agreeing with Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann on 99 percent of the issues, but the similarities end there. We need to look at the experience and accomplishments of the candidates and make sure we support someone who can not only defeat President Obama, but someone who also has the proven experience and leadership to handle the difficult challenges of the presidency.

This may be Pawlenty’s best line of attack against Bachmann, and it may strike a chord with voters who are inclined to view women as incompetent. Still, it doesn’t strike me as a promising avenue for taking down a charismatic, well-spoken conservative. A detailed post on Bachmann’s campaign is in progress, but the short version is that she has a compelling message and seems to be connecting with Iowa Republicans. I don’t mean to discount the importance of opening mail or responding to constituents, but people want to vote for someone who shares their values. Many Iowa Democrats will concede that Senator Chuck Grassley’s constituent service surpasses Senator Tom Harkin’s, but that doesn’t mean they will vote for Grassley or stop supporting Harkin. I don’t see Iowa Republicans who lean toward Bachmann being put off by a stack of unopened campaign donations. Shoddy work by former staffers is not a deal-breaker.

Fact-checkers frequently find problems with assertions Bachmann makes in speeches or interviews, but I don’t see Pawlenty attacking her on that front. Her false or misleading statements feed into appealing conservative narratives, and he doesn’t want to come across as moderate. On the contrary, Pawlenty has changed his position on climate change and health insurance mandates to conform to the Republican base.

Pawlenty’s in a bind, because not only does he have limited time to make a move, he has far less money to spend than, say, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton spent before the 2008 Iowa caucuses. Pawlenty raised only $4.2 million during the second quarter of 2011, less than Ron Paul and several times less than Romney’s expected cash haul. Bachmann will be able to transfer millions from her Congressional campaign account to supplement what she raises for her presidential bid. Granted, Mike Huckabee put together a winning campaign in Iowa without spending as much as his main rival, but Huckabee had strong support from social conservative groups like homeschoolers and anti-abortion activists, who seem more likely to gravitate toward Bachmann than toward Pawlenty.

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