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Ryan Johnson, Forum Communications Co., Published March 22 2010

Pawlenty delivers keynote speech at North Dakota GOP convention

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was in Grand Forks on Sunday to deliver a keynote speech that ranged from Republican prospects for the November elections to concerns he has about the current direction of the federal government.

The potential 2012 presidential candidate’s speech kicked off the final day of the North Dakota Republican Party’s state convention that endorsed candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and five statewide offices.

But Pawlenty didn’t mention his possible presidential run, instead focusing his speech on energizing the 800 or so delegates in attendance. He also backed North Dakota Republicans’ focus on getting Gov. John Hoeven in the Senate and state Rep. Rick Berg, R-Fargo, in the House if he can defeat nine-term incumbent Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D.

Pawlenty, first elected governor in 2002, said successful election attempts for Republicans would help to return conservative principles to a Congress whose leaders “have absolutely lost their way.”

“We need new leadership. We need people to rise up and to come forward and raise their hand and say there is a better way for this country,” he said. “That’s why I’m so excited when I see the incredible common sense and wisdom and steady hand and strong values of John Hoeven saying it’s time for me to go to Washington, D.C., and clean up this mess.”

Hoeven and his wife, Mikey, “want to serve not because of government – because they understand this nation,” Pawlenty said.

He also made a show of support for Berg, saying he had a “great track record” and is someone who “understands the need and direction for our party and our country.”

But Pawlenty also brought up a tarnished Republican Party image and loss of control in the federal government that he said came as a result of more than a decade of “erosion” of the party message and “corrosion” of values.

“We’re going to get another lick at it,” he said. “We need to make sure that we do what we say we’re going to do.”

Pawlenty cautioned delegates that people don’t like hypocrisy or “double standards,” so elected Republicans can’t claim to be the party that stands for certain values and then get elected and have “a bunch of scandals.”

“And if we’re going to say we’re the party of fiscal responsibility… you need to go out to Washington, D.C., and be fiscally conservative,” he said.

Things are looking good for Republicans this year, Pawlenty said. He referenced off-year election victories in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts as a sign of the American people returning to a “commonsense agenda” with a simple message: “Enough.”

Pawlenty said government intervention in the last two years in the automobile, banking and insurance industries and the current push for health care reform is bad enough, but “what will they do for an encore?”

He then outlined his three principles of the Republican Party. “We can’t spend more than we have,” he said, is a commonsense idea that the federal government isn’t listening to anymore.

“They are living in a reckless, irresponsible, unsustainable manner, and it must come to an end,” Pawlenty said.

Next was the idea that people will spend money differently when it’s their money, which Pawlenty said is a logical outcome.

“If you don’t believe me, watch the behavior of people at an open bar or an all-you-can-eat buffet or anything else,” he said.

Pawlenty said it’s the same thing that will happen with health care reform because politicians no longer will be thinking about their money but about someone else’s money to pay for it.

He ended his speech with the final principle – “bullies respect strength, not weakness” – that he said relates to national security and international affairs.

“Whether it was on the playground, whether it’s in hockey or whether it’s in international affairs, bullies understand strength, not weakness,” Pawlenty said. “And history shows it is weakness that tempts our enemies, not strength.”


Johnson is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.