The wives of presidential candidates often take to the campaign trail. but today’s brief speech by the wife of former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty helped the Pawlentys illustrate their unity just hours after another politician’s wife seems to have vetoed her husband’s bid for the White House.
From Laura Bush and Elizabeth Dole to Tipper Gore and Teresa Heinz-Kerry, Iowans have often seen the wives of presidential candidates serve as a primary spokesperson here while their husbands were tending to political business elsewhere. Today, during a speech in Iowa, Mary Pawlenty — the wife of Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty — made clear she is on board with her husband’s campaign.
“It’s tempting, I presume, to assume that his spouse of so many years would stand here and be supportive simply from the heart and, of course, I am supportive from the heart,” Pawlenty said. “But all that I know and all that I have witnessed about my husband has me supporting him in equal measure with my heart and my head.”
The scrutiny surrounding a campaign for the presidency, and another wife’s relutance to expose her family to that intense spotlight, prompted Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels to announce this past weekend he will not run for president. Within hours of that news, the Pawlentys were in Des Moines, presenting a unified front.
“After serving eight years as Minnesota’s governor I was very much looking forward to life with Mary and our two daughters in the Midwestern home that we love,” Pawlenty said to begin his speech. “But with Mary’s encouragement and wise counsel, we came to a different conclusion and that’s what brings me here today with this announcement: I’m Tim Pawlenty and I’m running for president of the United States.”
Mary Pawlenty, a lawyer and former judge, praised what she called the “internal compass” her husband has used to set his course in politics and in life.
“In the fall of 1983, I met Tim Pawlenty,” she told a crowd gathered on the terrace of the State Historical Building in Des Moines. “And I knew at that time that I had met someone extraordinary.”
A reluctant spouse was temporarily at center stage in Iowa’s political scene in late 2009, as Terry Branstad’s primary hurdle to launching his bid for a fifth term as governor was getting his wife’s blessing. Chris Branstad does not give public speeches, and she does not introduce her husband at events. Mary Pawlenty does.
“I am completely certain that he is the best person for the job,” she said today.
Mary Pawlenty works as a mediator and arbitrator for a Minnesota-based company that specialized in resolving legal disputes. The Pawlentys have two teenaged daughters and make their home in Eagan, Minnesota.