From The New York Times:
WAVERLY, Iowa — The scene had all the makings of an American Gothic painting from Iowa’s own Grant Wood. A red and white barn served as the backdrop. A cornfield was in the distance. And a politician spoke of making the country great again.
For this loyal Republican crowd, the setting was a familiar one. The opening line was not.
“I’m very thankful for my red-hot smoking wife, the first lady of Minnesota,” said Gov. Tim Pawlenty, pointing to his wife, Mary, who was standing a few feet away.
Oh, those crazy Rethugs and their undying respect for women!
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With that, the Pawlenty road show began this weekend in Iowa, the place where presidential aspirations are born. It was Mr. Pawlenty’s fifth visit in less than a year, one of many signs that he is working the state as intently as any prospective Republican presidential hopeful.
Yes, it is early. The Iowa caucuses, the traditional starting point in the race for the White House, are 553 days away. Yet the moment that contests for House, Senate and governor are decided this year, a crop of Republicans will swiftly emerge for the party’s next act.
It was four years ago when [President] Obama, [then] a freshman senator from Illinois, made his first trip to Iowa. Two years later, he won the Democratic caucuses here. Without that victory, he would probably not have won the presidency.
Since the 2008 presidential race ended, the state’s guestbook, according to a tabulation by Radio Iowa, includes former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania (five times); Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker (three times); former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas (three times); Representative Ron Paul of Texas (three times); and former Gov. George E. Pataki of New York (one time).
Mr. Pawlenty, 49, is presenting himself as an authentic Main Street conservative, who twice won statewide election as a Republican in a progressive state. He says Republicans need to shed the stereotype that their party is rooted solely in the country club and the board room. He mentions none of his potential rivals by name, of course, but it is not lost on Republicans that he is seeking to become an alternative to Mr. Romney.
Mr. Pawlenty’s visibility has grown in Republican circles since he was a finalist to be Senator John McCain’s running mate in 2008. Asked whether he benefited from not being chosen, Mr. Pawlenty paused for a moment and said, “It seems like Sarah Palin has done very well, having been selected.”
In addition to his Iowa trips, Mr. Pawlenty has visited New Hampshire, the site of the first presidential primary, and has traveled across the country to help Republicans.
While Ms. Palin and Mr. Romney have made similar contributions, they have done so from afar. As Mr. Pawlenty finished speaking on the farm outside of Waverly, he pulled a $500 check from his pocket and presented it directly to Bill Dix, a candidate for the Iowa Senate.
His conversations and speeches were peppered with homespun one-liners, including the quip about his wife, which he has been telling Minnesota crowds for years.
Just in case you were wondering about the “smoking hot wife” line, this is from New York Magazine:
Generally boring presidential hopeful and Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty once saw the occasionally funny Will Ferrell movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and he loved it so much that in March of 2007, seven months after the movie was released, he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that it was his favorite “recent movie.” But there is one scene in particular that holds a special place in Pawlenty’s heart: When Ricky Bobby, the NASCAR driver played by Ferrell, thanks God for his “red-hot smoking wife” during grace. Pawlenty really loves that line. Even years later, he would apply it to his own wife during campaign appearances around the country — over, and over, and over again.
Some candidates like to quote the Founding Fathers. These days, many Republicans are fond of quoting Ronald Reagan. Tim Pawlenty will campaign for president across the country for the next two years repeating a line from the forgettable 2006 movie Talladega Nights, and that is weird.
So there you have it, kids. There’s a guy who’s running for president who thinks that Will Ferrell movies are funny. 🙄