ABC News’ David Chalian Reports:
When Repoublican Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota took to the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. Saturday morning, he acknowledged that he was not well known — even among the activists filling the hotel ballroom. As one of the many Republicans eyeing a presidential run in 2012, Pawlenty attempted to woo the gathered conservatives with what he called "a little perspective from the Heartland about the conservative movement across this country."
Unlike the pseudo-State of the Union responses Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney offered up at CPAC on Friday, Gov. Pawlenty stayed as far away from specifics as possible, providing only the most broad and amorphous policy positions ("We have to do everything possible to Americanize our energy supply," he said.) One notable exception was when he called for a Constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget, which was met with a standing ovation.
Pawlenty, who has earned a reputation as a pragmatic two-term Republican governor in a state that trends Democratic, wanted to sketch out guiding principles he personally adheres to and which he believes the conservative movement was founded upon and must continue to defend.
"It all starts with acknowledging that God is our creator," Pawlenty said. "And it is from God that we receive our values."
"A traditional family with two parents in it is unquestionably the best environment for children to be born and raised," he said. "We don’t have to make apologies for being a pro-family movement."
Pawlenty has never shied away from his conservative social credentials, but early impressions are key, and his speech seemed designed to put those credentials front and center as the conservative grassroots activists begin looking for leaders in the Obama era. (Speaking of first impressions, Pawlenty introduced his wife to the crowd thusly: "She is amazing, she is fantastic, and she’s hot.")
Pawlenty also made sure to throw out a couple of one-liners to let the crowd know he is willing and able to throw an elbow and take on the Democrats and the mainstream media, albeit with a healthy sense of humor. The governor observed that President Obama rolled out a budget showing a one-year deficit well over one trillion dollars in the same week he convened a fiscal responsibility summit. "What’s next? Are they going to have Rod Blagojevich convene an ethics summit?" he said, to great laughter in the room. He quickly followed with another canned one-liner. "The only thing growing faster than our national deficit is Chris Matthews’ man crush on Barack Obama."