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  • Photo by Jodie Andruskevich - Former Minnesota Governor, Tim Pawlenty, left, an early presidential candidate, signs his book "Courage To Stand" for Di Lothrup on in April at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
  • Photo by Jodie Andruskevich - Former Minnesota Governor, Tim Pawlenty, a presidential hopeful, addresses the Nashua Republican City Committee at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Thursday evening.
  • Photo by Jodie Andruskevich - Former Minnesota Governor, Tim Pawlenty, second from right, poses for a photo with a group of students from Thomas Moore College in Merrimack on Thursday evening at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nashua. Pawlenty, presidential candidate, was in Nashua to address the Nashua Republican City Committee.
Friday, April 15, 2011

Pawlenty greets voters in Nashua

NASHUA – The United States, fast approaching the 2012 presidential election, has a spending problem, an immigration problem and a security problem. But before he can help solve these issues, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty must solve his own name recognition problem, the likely presidential challenger told a crowd of voters Thursday at Nashua’s Crowne Plaza Hotel.

More than eight months before New Hampshire’s first in the nation primary election, Pawlenty, who announced last month the formation of a presidential exploratory committee, introduced himself to about 150 voters, hosted by the Nashua Republican City Committee.

Some audience members have grown increasingly aware of Pawlenty as word has spread of his rumored candidacy, they said. But others have little knowledge of the two-term governor.

“Who is this guy? I’ve never heard of him,” Tony Pellegrino, of Merrimack, asked before the likely candidate took the stage.

“It’s Paw-lent-y,” Dan Dwyer, a Merrimack Town Councilor, responded, pronouncing the name phonetically. “He’s from Minnesota.”

Acknowledging that he is not as well known as business magnate Donald Trump and former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, among other rumored candidates, Pawlenty shared his background with the audience.

“I grew up in a meatpacking town,” he said. “My dad was a truck driver. My mom was a homemaker.”

And he shared his views for the country, which has run farther off track since President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, Pawlenty said.

Since he took office, Obama and Congressional Democrats have continued to grow the federal government, further infringing on individual freedoms, he said.

They have ballooned federal spending, leaving taxpayers on the brink; the national health care act has robbed patients of medical options; and the president’s failure to secure the borders has left the country vulnerable and insecure, he said.

“I don’t question the authenticity of his birth certificate, but I do question what planet he’s from when I look at his policies,” Pawlenty told the crowd, referring to questions that have been posed over the president’s origins.

“Obama looked America in the eye, and said I will not spend another dime . . . that isn’t paid for. He didn’t keep his promise, did he?” he said. “We can’t restore America’s promise with a president who has broken his promise to the American people.”

Instead, Pawlenty vowed, if elected, to work to raise the retirement age in order to save Social Security, to avoid an amnesty plan for illegal immigrants and to reduce spending to affordable levels.

“We can’t spend more than we take in,” he said to a round of applause. “You can’t do it as an individual, you can’t do it in your family life, and we can’t let the government do it any more.”

Pawlenty, who made several references to his own candidacy, fell short of formally declaring for the race. Earlier in the week, he appeared to confirm his intentions to run to CNN before quickly recanting, saying he was answering a hypothetical question.

But he did tell voters Thursday they can look for him to return soon to the Granite State.

“We’ve got a long road ahead of us, and I’m just starting to get known here,” he said, concluding his talk.

And voters will welcome him back with open arms, they said.

“He isn’t too well known yet, but once people hear him speak, I think they’ll like him,” said Pellegrino, of Merrimack.

“It’s a challenge for any candidate to get real name recognition this early,” added Ron Poirier, of Nashua. “He’s got a lot of strong ideas. . . . I think he could do very well.”

Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or jberry@nashuatelegraph.com.