Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty has embarked on an 18-city tour of the state, a push to drum up attention before the Iowa GOP’s Straw Poll next month. However Pawlenty is publicly downplaying the idea the Straw Poll is a win-or-go-home prospect for him.
“I don’t think so,” Pawlenty told reporters this afternoon. “I think The Des Moines Register poll had us in sixth or seventh place, so we’ve been saying we’ve got to show improvement, from something in the back of the pack to something closer to front of the pack.”
Pawlenty declined to “put a number” or target for his finish in the August Straw Poll.
Pawlenty spoke to about 60 people at the Coralville Library early this afternoon, touting the results from his two terms as Minnesota’s governor.
“I took the state from spending from historic highs to historic lows. I cut taxes, net, during my eight years as governor. We did school reform, one of the first states in the nation to move from seniority pay to performance pay for teachers,” Pawlenty said. “We did public employee compensation reform before it was cool and popular.”
The Iowa Democratic Party organized a conference call with Iowa reporters earlier today, bringing in a Pawlenty critic from Minnesota who said “there’s nothing in Pawlenty’s record to indicate his kind of results would be good for the country.”
It’s not Democrats Pawlenty’s targeting now, however. It’s people like Deborah Thornton who attended Pawlenty’s event in Coralville on Monday.
“You know, I’m going to be at the Straw Poll,” Thornton says. “I’m still waiting to make a decision. I mean, you know, I’ve heard Herman Cain several times, I’ve heard Michele Bachmann several times, so I’m waiting. I’m hearing them.”
Pawlenty’s wife, Mary, is along for this week’s bus tour. She is featured in a new Pawlenty campaign video in which the couple talk about their “faith journey” and the comfort Pawlenty got from his faith when his mother died when he was a teenager.