Southern Fried Pawlenty

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Jeff Zeleny’s good story today on the GOP hopeful flags something I heard people buzzing about after Monday’s GOP 2012 forum near Des Moines  (my account here):

The knock on Mr. Pawlenty, according to conversations with voters, is that his speeches sound sincere but do not always sizzle. At a faith forum last week in Iowa, he displayed vigor. But the next day at the Statehouse, the talk among several Republicans was that it seemed he had suddenly developed a Southern accent as he tried connecting to voters by speaking louder and with more energy.

The political blog of Radio Iowa heard it too and noted, “Pawlenty seems to be adopting a Southern accent as he talks about his record as governor.” As he spoke of the country’s challenges, he dropped the letter G, saying: “It ain’t gonna be easy. This is about plowin’ ahead and gettin’ the job done.”

My problem with Pawlenty’s speech wasn’t the accent–though it was noticeable. It’s that it seemed to lack the emotional punch you’d want to see from a candidate without much national profile. I can’t remember much from the speech except that it emphasized values and religion in fairly standard ways–and that Pawlenty half-shouted his way through much of it. (In fairness, the event was held by a social-conservative group to whom Pawlenty was trying to prove his bona fides.)

P.S. One complaint about Zeleny’s otherwise well-crafted story. He ends it this way:

Mr. Pawlenty, a year older than Mr. Obama, is one of the youngest prospective Republican candidates. He is sensitive to questions about his experience, which came to light here when a voter asked how he believed the president had handled Libya and other foreign policy challenges.

“For a governor, I’ve got an unusual amount of foreign policy or international security experience,” he said. “I’ve been to Iraq five times. I’ve been to Afghanistan three times. I’ve been all over the Middle East, including Israel, Turkey, Jordan, Kuwait and other places.”

After the soliloquy about himself, Mr. Pawlenty answered the question.

What was the answer? The story doesn’t tell us. If you’re wondering, on March 11 Pawlenty complained about Obama’s “incoherent response” to the Libyan uprising, adding that “if there is a plausible way to implement a no-fly zone, we should.” That answer has the benefit of being coherent, although that “plausible” is something of a weasel word. Plausibility is in the eye of the beholder and can involve a lot of hard questions, none of which Pawlenty seems to have specified.