Tim Pawlenty has had a crappy 10 days. His debate performance, namely his inability to call Romney out on ‘Obamneycare’ in person, has overshadowed everything else he has done. On top of that his fellow Minnesotan, Michele Bachmann, has suddenly become the anti-Romney candidate, a position that Pawlenty has been angling for the whole race.
Today, hoping to break through the current impasse, his campaign released an advertisement in Iowa, a state that the former Minnesota Governor has essentially staked his candidacy on. It marks the first ad by any campaign in an early state.
In the ad Pawlenty tries to present himself as a conservative with a record of achieving conservative results in a Democratic state. Pawlenty likes to point out in his speeches that Minnesota was the only state in the country not to go for Reagan in 1984. As he says, it’s the state of Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Governor Jesse Ventura, and now, unfortunately, Senator Al Franken. Pawlenty’s record of passing conservative legislation in such a far Left state is the basis of his electoral case.
It’s an effective narrative, as it presents Pawlenty as a candidate who doesn’t just propose conservative ideas, but someone who can actually make those ideas reality. It also presents a favorable indirect comparison to his two biggest threats, Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann.
In pointing out that he achieved conservative results in a liberal state — the ad even mentions ‘without mandates’ — he is hitting Romney for his health care plan in Massachusetts. The emphasis on governing, Pawlenty hopes, will distinguish himself from Bachmann, who has only been a legislator, lacking a record of executive decision making.
Running the ad now is a somewhat risky decision because Pawlenty doesn’t have the campaign kitty of Mitt Romney or the direct mail fundraising resources of Michele Bachmann. The fact that he’s willing to drop this chunk of change on an ad almost two months before the Ames straw poll on August 13 means he knows he has to shake things up. Whether it’s enough we’ll know by August, as Iowa is make or break territory for Pawlenty.