Departing Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty kicks off his book tour by chatting with NRO’s Jim Geraghty.
National Review Online: So, this is a book tour, not a pre-presidential-campaign tour…that’s your story and you’re sticking to it?
Tim Pawlenty: (laughs) Well, it is principally about promoting the book, so that’s what we’re doing and the schedule reflects that. But obviously we’re doing some political things along the way. And as for running for president, I’m not cute about it — I tell people I’m considering it and haven’t made a final decision yet.
NRO: Do you have a timeline for your decision?
PAWLENTY: We’ll probably make an announcement sometime toward the end of the first quarter or the early part of the second quarter of this year, 2011.
: I’m reading the book, and enjoying the human side that comes through — the dog attacking you when you were walking precincts, the meeting where you wondered if Jesse Ventura was going to punch you, anecdotes like that. As I read this, I thought, “He seems like a really normal human being. So why on earth would he ever want to run for president?”
PAWLENTY: (laughs) One of the things I can bring to the table, whether it’s running for president or public service more broadly, is that I have this blue-collar background. I grew up in a meat-packing town, my dad was a truck driver for much of his life, and my mom was a homemaker. It’s a lunch-bucket Reagan Democrat kind of place. People got their hands dirty, they worked hard, they broke a sweat during the day in most of their jobs. When people talk about Republicans all being wealthy, or former CEOs, or trust-fund kids, all going to Harvard and Yale, and they say, “You can’t relate to me and my worries about whether I can afford to put gas in my car, or pay for health insurance, or afford college for my kids,” I can say, “Yeah, I can, I lived exactly that life. I’ve walked in your shoes.” That gives you a little bit of an opening to connect more with people who aren’t yet conservatives or aren’t yet Republicans who we want to get on our team.
NRO: Presuming you ran, you would be taking on some big names with national fundraising networks, personal wealth, etc. How does a lesser-known candidate make up that difference? Is that something you’re thinking about now?
PAWLENTY: Anybody who’s a serious candidate for president of the United States is going to have 100 percent name ID as you get to the caucus stages and beyond. So that takes care of itself over time if you can get some traction. History is replete with examples of people who weren’t well known and became well known as the campaign unfolded. You have to get traction and you have to show improvement in support levels. For us, a year ago or so, if you took a poll of Republicans nationally, I think about 15 percent of the people knew who I was and now it’s about 40. More than doubled it in a year, and I think that’s reasonable progress. I don’t have a billion dollars, I’m not a celebrity, but I do have a record of getting things done. In the end, you’re going to have six or seven people up on the stage in a debate, and there’s going to be some differences in policy, but basically they’ll be saying about the same thing on pro-growth economic policy, health care, education reform, terrorism, national security, and the like.
So the question isn’t going to be some huge divergence of policy positions. I think the question is going to be, “As you look at these as individuals, do their life stories and times in previous office demonstrate the fortitude to do the hard work that’s got to be done to turn this country around? Do they actually have results?” I put my record against any of them.