Pawlentymania Comes to D.C.

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 13 2011 6:35 PM

Pawlentymania Comes to D.C.

I ended the day at two of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's book events in Washington. At a Barnes & Noble downtown, Pawlenty drew a healthy crowd for a signing of Courage to Stand , his readable new memoir. It was a crowd of autograph-seekers, Pawlenty die-hards who'd worked for him or worked for the RNC when it was in St. Paul, and interested social conservatives. One fan, Chris Burris, told Pawlenty that he was getting signatures from all possible 2012 candidates.

"I'm the only one dumb enough to wear a flannel shirt in Iraq," said Pawlenty.

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Pawlenty was joined by Vin Weber, the former congressman who advised John McCain and is advising Pawlenty this year, and one 2008 Rudy advisor who's also on the team. Flitting around, shooting video, was the man who shot the Republican Governors Association's "Remember November" videos in 2010, who said he was, at the moment, only doing this jag with Pawlenty.

The event ran long; there was still a crowd at 6, when Pawlenty was scheduled to speak at a George Washington University event with College Republicans. By the time he arrived a stack of pizzas -- the other selling point for the event -- were already being digested by a polite crowd. He gave them a 10-minute speech, leading off by recreating his Daily Show interview for them. He'd tried to explain to Jon Stewart, he said, that there was a continuum between freedom and tyranny. There were no explosions of applause, but no yawns either; the most common words I heard used to describe him were "pretty good."

"Obama won in 2008 because he energized the left," said Dave Levy, a GWU grad who asked Pawlenty if he thought the US should get tougher with China on human rights. "The next Republican nominee is going to have to energize the right. I think that's the challenge Pawlenty he has." Levy worried, however, about the Republican who does this best. "Palin is the candidate every Democrat should want," he said.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.