Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty — a likely candidate for president — says other Republicans who intend to compete for the G.O.P.’s 2012 nomination need to step forward and join the campaign. Pawlenty formed an “exploratory” campaign committee on March 21st. This past week Pawlenty announced he’s hired 10 “field” staffers to ramp up his campaign in Iowa.
“You know, it’s May and I can understand if people didn’t want to start in December or January. I mean, in the past they’ve said, ‘That’s too early,'” Pawlenty said this afternoon during an interview with Radio Iowa. “Well, you know, it’s time.”
Pawlenty listed a laundry list of domestic concerns — from unemployment to rising gas prices — and argued Republican candidates need to start telling voters how they’d tackle those issues if they were elected president.
“It’s going to require that candidates make the case for why Barack Obama should be dismissed from his position and that’s going to require a big effort,” Pawlenty said, “and it needs to start now.”
Pawlenty is one of the handful of Republican presidential hopefuls who will gather later this week in South Carolina for the first “debate” of the presidential election season. Neither Mitt Romney nor Mike Huckabee — two candidates from 2008 who have not ruled out a second run in 2012 — will participate. Without mentioning other candidates by name, Pawlenty suggested his would-be competitors have a dwindling window of opportunity to make their cases to voters.
“We’ve got to get off the sideline.” Pawlenty said. “We’ve got big challenges and it requires a big challenge and, you know, I think the time to engage President Obama is now.”
Pawlenty has used the phrase “job well done” to describe Obama’s decision to approve the raid into Pakistan that wound up killing terrorist Osama bin Laden, but Pawlenty said it would be wrong for Republicans to consider Obama unbeatable in 2012 because of that one act.
“Is the bin Laden thing an achievement and an accomplishment and worthy of our appreciation and congratulations to the president? Yes. But let’s also remember, now, that he made a number of other decisions in the area of foreign policy and defense that are, in my view, not stellar,” Pawlenty said. “And we also have a country with $4 a gallon gas, nearly 9 percent unemployment, an out-of-control federal government and a president who’s been unwilling to meaningfully address that and the American people, I think, are ready for change.”
Pawlenty is in the midst of a two-day swing through Iowa, with public appearances today in Ames and Adel. Tomorrow he’ll speak at the Westside Conservative Breakfast in Urbandale before touring Pioneer Hy-Bred’s research facilities in Johnston.