Tuesday, October 09, 2007

What The Republican Party Can Learn From Tim Pawlenty

Let's set aside the fact that Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty visited New Hampshire yesterday on behalf of Senator John McCain.

Noted: The Mitt Romney supporter in our picture was certainly able to set his feelings aside.

Everyone knows where we stand on McCain's candidacy. And, as Governor Pawlenty is the Senator's national campaign co-chair, everyone should be able to guess where Mr. Pawlenty stands as well.

So this post is not about John McCain. Shocking, we know.

This post is about Governor Pawlenty.

And his terrific "Road-Map Out Of The GOP Message Wilderness" stump speech (our words not his) that he delivered in Fairlee, Vermont last night to New Hampshire and Vermont GOP activists.

Noted: Fairlee is a long way from Manchester, New Hampshire. And while we would love to include snippets of the 4 hour conversation we had with Governor Pawlenty traveling to and from last night's event, off the record means off the record. Even for bloggers.

So back to Pawlenty's (public) stump speech.

The Governor's speech started with a few self-depreciating jokes. There is nothing wrong with warming a crowd up with a little humor. And Pawlenty tells good jokes well.

Like a lot of politicians.

But then the Governor moved into the actual meat of his speech. And he stopped sounding like "a lot of politicians".

He began by talking about the massive economic, cultural and technological changes currently sweeping across the globe. He told the audience that "massive change" is both "a little bit scary" and "exciting" at the same time.

Then he told the audience that Americans in general, and the Republican Party in particular, needs to "hold on to what makes us great" while at the same time being flexible enough to "take advantage of new opportunities".

"So what's something that makes us great?" Governor Pawlenty asked the Republican crowd. "We are the Party of fiscal discipline!" he answered himself.

The Governor then proceeded to sort out his 55 vetoes as Governor of Minnesota, including his vetoes of most of Minnesota's major omnibus bills.

Heads started bobbing up and down in the room.

"But the Republican Party needs to have a broader vision than just being accountants for the Democrats," Governor Pawlenty explained.

Our heart fluttered. More than a little bit.

The good Governor then launched into a 20 minute discussion on education reform, health care reform and energy reform.

Our favorite quote, on the need for energy reform, "70% of our oil comes from foreign sources and it hooks us to people and places that we shouldn't be hooked to. It is a national security imperative that we move our country away from oil. The public is way ahead of the politicians on this issue."

By God! A Republican who is clearly unwilling to cede the energy issue to the Democrats? Incredible!

Noted: The AP has a good Pawlenty interview on this subject.

Heads are really bobbing up and down in the room now. And remember, these are Vermont/NH GOP activists.

And so far not a peep - not one peep - has come from Governor Pawlenty about the War In Iraq or the troop surge (when he talked about the need for energy reform he specifically cited Venezuela, Russia and Saudi Arabia).

Now finished with the issue portion of his stump speech, Governor Pawlenty turned to the 2008 election and his support for Senator John McCain who Pawlenty says is "ready to lead from day one".

Which is where the subject of Iraq and the troop surge finally appears, 30 minutes into his stump speech. But only briefly. In a - you know John McCain, you know his experience, you know he will do what needs to be done in Iraq, you trust him, case closed - sort of way.

And, when you're backing a candidate who has the military experience that John McCain has, you get to make that sort of argument.

Which allows you to focus more time on other issues that voters still really care about (health care, energy, fiscal discipline, education etc).

No question that America's fight against radical Islamic fundamentalism is important. But so are these other issues. Issues that the GOP can use to build and expand their Party in 2008.

Imagine that.

Governor Pawlenty seems to understand this.

And the Republican Party should watch the good Governor closely and learn a thing or two about updating (creating?) their broader message for 2008. And beyond.

We're just saying.