Ames, Iowa — At dusk on Friday, the eve of the straw poll, Tim Pawlenty finished his grueling bus tour with an outdoor pizza party for frat boys and sorority girls on the campus of Iowa State University, a few blocks from where his presidential campaign will face its greatest test. Pawlenty was in good spirits for the low-key event, which was held on a patch of grass dubbed the “Greek triangle.” He urged the students to support him at Saturday’s GOP bonanza, talking up the free barbeque as much as his politics.
At the outset, as his wife, Mary, and two teenagers looked on, Pawlenty grabbed the microphone and grinned at a group of shaggy-haired pledges. “For the young men in the audience, I don’t want to see anybody talking to my daughters,” he chuckled, nodding toward the students. “You know what I’m saying.” He then blended a Kid Rock reference into his opening pitch. The rest of the remarks were a mix of Pawlenty’s usual riffs and straw-poll logistics.