Pawlenty's Political Hail Mary Pass

August 04, 2011

The Iowa Straw Poll for Republican presidential hopefuls is just nine days away. The event will likely narrow the race some as a candidate or two will place so poorly that they will realize they are unable to continue (in large part because fundraising will dry up after a poor showing). One candidate who most political analysts expected to do well but has been struggling is former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. With the straw poll nearing and his chances of winning the nomination fading, Pawlenty has stepped up his faith appeals in hopes of pulling a political miracle next Saturday. Last month, his campaign launched a new website,, which automatically redirects people to Pawlenty's straw poll website (so apparently his faith is the straw poll). Along with that, the campaign released a new video of Pawlenty and his wife talking about their church backgrounds and Christian beliefs. In the video he proclaims:

[F]or me, my faith is very important to me, and it influences all that I do, and it informs people about what my values are, and of course that has a great bearing on how you conduct yourself in public office.
He also argues that voters deserve to know the personal faith beliefs of candidates. After talking about his faith in the video, he then launches into an attack on the principle of separation of church and state. He argues, somewhat inaccurately:
The separation of church and state was intended to protect people of faith from government -- not government from people of faith. Now, we have all this revisionism around what was intended, and where those lines really are drawn. And I think the founders of this country made it very clear--we were founded as a nation under God, and it's not only in our founding documents nationally, it's in the founding documents of 49 of the 50 states, and so it's very clear what roadmap they put out for us as it relates to faith in the public square.
Pawlenty's video is a clear example of the confessional political style as he testified about his Christian beliefs, argued that voters should ask candidates about their religious beliefs, used religious references to support partisan policy positions, and used sectarian arguments to attack the idea of separation of church and state. Helping Pawlenty push his religious campaign arguments is the daughter of the candidate who used them successfully in Iowa during the last campaign; Sarah Huckabee is now working for Pawlenty's campaign and pushing his faith outreach. Although Pawlenty left his Catholic faith to join a Baptist church, it seems that politically he is hoping that his faith will be the Hail Mary pass he needs in Iowa next week.