Reporting from Washington — Laying the groundwork for a likely presidential campaign, Tim Pawlenty used his forthcoming autobiography to lay out his vision for the nation's future and give potential voters more insight into his personal story.
The former Minnesota governor also praised a potential rival, describing former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as someone with "a lot more capacity than people fully recognize."
Pawlenty is following a well-worn course of national candidates. He was on the shortest of short lists to be John McCain's running mate in 2008, and after the defeat of the GOP ticket, Pawlenty started testing the waters for his own run. Few candidates, for instance, have visited the key early nominating state of New Hampshire as often as he has.
He spent much of 2010 traveling the country to support Republican candidates in the midterm campaign. With the end of his two terms as governor Monday, he's planning a national promotional tour beginning next week after the Tuesday release of his book, entitled "Courage to Stand."
"Today, like it did three decades ago, the country needs a strong, hopeful, optimistic leader who will honestly and credibly tell the American people, 'We can put this back together,' " Pawlenty writes near the end of the book, a copy of which was obtained by the Tribune Washington Bureau.
The previous 300 pages detail his up-from-the-bootstraps story, growing up in the "gritty streets" of South St. Paul to become the state's governor. As Pawlenty describes his political career, a common theme is how he prevailed upon a heavily Democratic state -- "the land of Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, and Al Franken" -- to adopt common-sense conservative solutions.
"I used my veto pen 123 times to cut spending and limit government growth and waste," he writes. "In reality, my administration just did what any family would do. We determined what we could not cut, then cut just about everything else."
His accomplishments as governor, and his longstanding friendship with Sen. McCain, made him a likely candidate for vice president in 2008. The Republican convention was held in his home state, and Pawlenty described the process of being vetted for months before the choice was made, though he and McCain never discussed it personally.
Ultimately, the nod went to then-Alaska Gov. Palin. Pawlenty said he learned after turning his television on to Fox News. Eventually, McCain called to explain that he wanted to "try something different." "I told him it was a gutsy pick. A good pick," Pawlenty writes.
Though the two may very well be rivals in the presidential campaign, Pawlenty offers only praise for Palin, and the role she played in 2008 -- "McCain could have picked Superman or Wonder Woman and he still wasn't going to win" -- and since.
"Sarah Palin has become a force of nature in the Republican Party," he writes. "She inspires people in the conservative cause. She exudes enthusiasm, and that energy is the fuel of grassroots politics. We need that kind of energy and fuel from people all over this country if we want a shot at setting America back on course."
The implications for 2012 are never specifically discussed.
"Mary and I need to determine what's next for us," he said.
But the suggestion of a candidacy is nonetheless strongly hinted at. As he outlined his accomplishments as governor, he concludes: "Washington must do the same."
Pawlenty criticizes President Obama for pursuing a tired liberal course doomed to fail.
"Rather than govern from the center, he proved to be a partisan liberal," he writes. "To correct a recession caused in part by government meddling in the economy, the President called for unprecedented levels of … government meddling in the economy!"
As part of his promotional tour, Pawlenty is slated to speak in Washington next week, before heading on an 11-stop, five-state tour that includes New Hampshire and Iowa.
The book is published by the Chicago-based Tyandale House.