ABC News' Matthew Jaffe (@matthewbjaffe) reports:
JOHNSTON, Iowa — Only hours after the closing bell rang on Wall Street to bring to an end one of the worst days in the history of the stock market, Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty pointed the finger of blame squarely at President Obama, saying it should serve as "another wake-up call."
"It's another wake-up call to a president who seems just so out of touch and inept and really doesn't have a plan to fix the economy. I do," Pawlenty told ABC News in a brief interview after his event this afternoon at a cafe in Johnston, Iowa. "We've got to cut taxes, we've got to lighten up on the regulations, we've got to do things to encourage job growth in this country, not have it suffocated by overreaching, burdensome government."
"Look, this problem has been brewing for a lot of years and a lot of decades, but he made it exponentially worse," Pawlenty added.
The former Minnesota governor spoke minutes after wrapping up a campaign event in front of a packed house at Rich's Brew, a cafe on the outskirts of Des Moines.
"The Standard & Poor's downgrade that occurred at the end of last week is another symptom, another indicator of how far off track our nation has become under President Obama's failed and misguided leadership. I think it's time we downgrade Barack Obama from the presidency of the United States and move him back to the private sector," Pawlenty told the crowd at the event.
Towards the end of Pawlenty's remarks, a Johnston resident named Randy Forte interrupted him to urge him to "give them hell" at Thursday's GOP debate in Ames. Pawlenty's performance at the last debate in New Hampshire was widely criticized, marked by his failure to take on frontrunner Mitt Romney despite coining the term "ObamaneyCare" the day earlier.
"This is the time for all of us to put our shoulders back and roll up our sleeves and get it done, so we need you," Pawlenty was saying to the crowd here. "If good people do nothing then the goofballs take over. "
"You've got to give them hell Thursday," Forte yelled from the back of the room. "You've got to get up there and give them hell."
"We will," replied Pawlenty. "But Ames on Saturday is where you can really give some additional help to our campaign."
Forte later told ABC News that he wanted Pawlenty to drop some of his "Midwestern nice" attitude and get people "stirred up."
"He's a Midwesterner. He's a kind and decent guy and very polite. He'll let other people get things stirred up," Forte explained. "What he's got to do is he's got to do some of that stirring. He's got to let go of some of that Midwestern-ness and go after the people, the folks on the dais with him, but in particular go after Obama."
All the same, Forte said he intends to vote for Pawlenty at Saturday's straw poll.