CHICAGO (AP) — Possible Republican presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty isn’t shying away from President Barack Obama’s adopted home state. The former Minnesota governor stopped in Chicago on Friday to sign copies of his new book and speak at a civic club that is popular with politicians of all stripes.
“I come from a state that is the land of McCarthy, Humphrey, Mondale, Wellstone, Al Franken and the notion that a state may have some Democrats in it doesn’t intimidate me or worry me. You know you got to try to reach out to the whole country,” he said.
Pawlenty, who is on tour promoting his book “Courage to Stand,” said he would decide soon on a 2012 presidential bid and make an announcement in the next few months.
“Good for him. You’ve got to cover all your bases and you can’t be scared away because this is Obama’s hometown. There’s a lot of people here that aren’t totally enthralled with what’s going on under the Obama administration,” said Illinois Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno.
Illinois Republican Party chairman Pat Brady said the state can be good for GOP presidential hopefuls. Republicans had a strong showing in the state in the November election, capturing Obama’s old Senate seat, congressional seats and two state offices.
“Remember there’s a primary too, and Illinois plays a role in that, it’s a good place to raise money,” Brady said. The state party is hosting a fundraiser Saturday in honor of the late President Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday that will feature GOP headliners including Newt Gingrich and Rick Sanoturm.
Talking to a lunchtime crowd Friday of more than 100 people, Pawlenty introduced himself to would-be Chicago voters. He talked about his life growing up in a city where meatpacking was the chief industry and his work as Minnesota’s governor. He also laid out some of his philosophies — part of it pretty basic — about government.
“We can’t spend more than we take in,” he said slowly, enunciating every word and getting chuckles from the audience. “You learn this in your family, I’m sure you live it in your business life. Government has to live by the same rule. It is not that hard.”
In Minnesota, Pawlenty stretched the bounds of executive authority to make deep budget cuts on his own that were ultimately overturned by the courts.
He said there was the Wall Street bubble, the technology bubble, the housing bubble and “now as we’re going to painfully experience we’re going to have the government bubble.”
Pawlenty talked about making changes to entitlement programs, including using means testing for cost-of-living-increases in Social Security. Wealthier people on Social Security would get smaller increases than those who are middle income or poor, he said. Also, Pawlenty said the retirement age could be increased for new people who collect Social Security, but he didn’t say what it would be.
“Those two things won’t solve the whole problem, but again, depending on where you draw the cut line, would help dramatically and steer the thing on a much better direction,” he said.
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