by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter
A light blue hat shielded Sheryl Ann Hickle’s eyes on the sunny deck, and as she awaited the arrival of former Republican governor Tim Pawlenty today (Monday, May 23) to a campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa, she spoke of the man she intends to vote for.
Religion is important to Hickle, as might have been guessed by her T-shirt which proclaimed the name Jesus.
But with Pawlenty, it’s more than a kindred spirituality, explained Hickle, a former supporter of Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.
“He (Pawlenty) strikes me as the kind of man who would be inside the White House the same as he is here, or walking down the street, at a restaurant, at home — he’s the same guy,” said Hickle, who prayed for guidance on which candidate to support.
“I’m going to vote for him,” she said of Pawlenty.
Iowan David Baird has back Pawlenty for more than a year, seeing in the former governor a tested conservative who can get things done.
Baird looks to the closely-watched an Ames straw poll in August as a Pawlenty “jumping off point” in terms of gaining national name recognition.
“We’ll win that,” Baird, active in the Pawlenty campaign, confidently said.
Former Republican Minnesota congressman Mark Kennedy, Pawlenty national treasurer, argues fiscal issues are paramount in this campaign. “That’s where Tim brings the credentials no one else has,” said Kennedy.
“I think he’s got a real good shot in Iowa,” said Kennedy, who attended the Pawlenty campaign stop in Des Moines.
Kennedy’s views may be based on more than optimism. Political Science Professor Timothy Hagle of the University of Iowa said Pawlenty seems to have best team in place in Iowa at this point.
“That’s not entirely surprising as he’s been working at it pretty carefully for some time,” said Hagle in an e-mail.
Hagle, active in Republican Party politics, said he recently watched Pawlenty at an appearance and was impressed.
Pawlenty showed up early and stayed late.
“That’s easier to do at the last event of the day, but it’s telling that he’s willing to do that at the end of a day of campaigning,” said Hagle.
“It’s the kind of thing that Iowans notice and appreciate,” he said.
Indeed, Hickle, who’s visually impaired and cannot drive, said a Pawlenty campaign worker picked her up and gave a ride to the town hall.
But strong opposition could come from Pawlenty’s home state.
Republican 6th Congressional District Congresswoman Michele Bachmann because of her Tea Party and social conservative connections would be a “formidable” candidate in Iowa if she enters the race, Hagle explained.
“She’ll have to quickly strengthen her Iowa team if she gets in,” he said.
Bachmann could make an announcement soon.
Which candidate has the upper hand right now in Iowa, the critical early caucus state?
Professor Rachel Paine Caufield, Department of Politics and International Relations, Drake University, believes it’s too early to know.
Pawlenty seems to be doing better than initially expected, but a number of political unknowns are still at play, she noted in an email.
“In addition, it is unclear to me that Pawlenty has the national name recognition to really capitalize on a better than expected finish in Iowa,” said Paine Caufield.
Kennedy believes Pawlenty was helped by the recent decision by Republican Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to not enter the presidential race.
Daniels is the most recent prominent Republican to either drop out of the 2012 presidential fray or decide not to get in.
Beside Huckabee and Daniels, others include Mississippi Republican Gov. Haley Barbour and celebrity Donald Trump.
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin has given signs of entering the field.
Some national pundits point to big personality Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as a potential candidate who could invigorate the Republican presidential race.