ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Bopping from one national TV interview to the next, Republican Tim Pawlenty played for laughs Tuesday to counter a humdrum image while also asserting himself as a tested figure who could be a credible presidential candidate.
The media blitz by the former Minnesota governor is connected to the official release of his autobiography, “Courage to Stand: An American Story.” In coming weeks, he’ll make his way to Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio and other states with White House importance to give speeches and sign books.
Pawlenty, an all-but-declared candidate, told his interviewers that they’d have to wait a few more months for an official announcement. But he left little doubt about which way he was leaning.
Asked on ABC’s “The View” if he has what it takes to make a viable White House bid, Pawlenty turned to humility.
“I tell people it helps if you are going to run for president to be a billionaire, to be famous or to have some novelty. I don’t have any of that,” Pawlenty told Barbara Walters. “But I have a great record. I think I have a good heart. I think I understand what the country needs, and I think I can help.”
Earlier, Pawlenty drew laughs by saying he’d select Walter’s co-host Whoopi Goldberg as his running mate.
It was a different tone on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” when he was all business.
He reflected on the shooting tragedy in Arizona by calling for “a more civil, thoughtful discourse in this country.” He differentiated himself from Sarah Palin, who John McCain selected over him for his vice presidential candidate in 2008. Pawlenty said he never would have used crosshairs on a map as Palin did to signal GOP campaign targets, but he stressed there “was no evidence” to suggest Palin’s moves motivated the shooting.
To make a point about the complexity of the nation’s tax code, Pawlenty floated the idea of forcing members of Congress fill out their own forms to understand “the mindless burdens” lawmakers put on Americans.
“No help of an accountant, a lawyer or a tax specialist,” he said.
Over two days, Pawlenty also had plans to appear on programs on Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and Comedy Central.
The Democratic National Committee offered a sarcastic take to Pawlenty’s book venture.
“Between all his TV appearances and his trips to Iowa and New Hampshire, we’re surprised he had time to write a book, let alone govern a state,” said DNC press secretary Hari Sevugan. “Nonetheless, we wish him the best of luck on his book tour.”
Since deciding 18 months ago not to run for a third term, Pawlenty has been traveling the country and dishing out campaign contributions through his federal political action committee. He has also been working to build his stature on Capitol Hill, where Minnesota Rep. Erik Paulsen is among those trying to open doors for Pawlenty.
Paulsen said he would side with Pawlenty even if another Minnesotan — fellow GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann — jumps into the 2012 race.
Paulsen said the book tour could help Pawlenty combat the rap that he’s too reserved.
“People are going to see first-hand that he is the real deal,” Paulsen said. “He is exactly the type of personality and projects the type of leadership that the country really needs right now.”
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