Phoenix (CNN) - With no Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich or other potential presidential candidates in attendance, Tim Pawlenty did not have to elbow much for speaking and face time with conservative activists gathered at the American Policy Summit in Phoenix on Saturday.
Amid the thin lineup of potential candidates at the Tea Party Patriots' three-day event, the friendly crowd was served red meat from the former Minnesota Republican governor - who emerged on stage to a splashy video presentation.
"I'm here today to say, 'Thank you.' Thank you for standing up to the ruling class. Thank you for standing up to the liberal power brokers, guardians of the status quo and the royal triangle of greed: big government, big unions and big bailed-out businesses."
As the normally mild-mannered Pawlenty continued, he wielded a double-edged rhetorical sword: appealing to the crowd's insistence on constitutional adherence - while also reiterating his recent lashing out at the president.
"The Constitution was not written to limit freedom, it was written to limit government," Pawlenty said. "It appears President Obama has forgotten what this says. It says in the Constitution: 'In order to form a more perfect Union.' Mr. President, that does not mean coddling out-of-control public employee unions. And Mr. President, Wisconsin does not need a lecture from somebody who's never balanced a budget in his life."
Pawlenty recently launched a website praising Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker as he battles with union opponents of a Republican bill that would strip most state workers of the bulk of their collective-bargaining rights. On the site, Pawlenty said Walker is "making tough choices needed to avoid financial ruin."
Pawlenty is appealing to a group whose support he'll surely need should he decide to run for president. Recently, he's made the rounds of conservative events, visited early 2012 primary states, and traveled the country selling his book that's part memoir, part conservative manifesto, "Courage to Stand."
In his Saturday address, Pawlenty even used punched-up humor to appeal to the conservative activists.
"Do you remember the guy who ran in the New York City mayor's race, who ran his entire campaign on a simple motto?" the former Minnesota governor asked.
"He said over and over: 'The rent is too damn high.' So here's our simple motto: 'The government's too damn big!'
Two other potential presidential candidates are also attending the event.
Representative Ron Paul spoke after Pawlenty. The Texas Republican enjoys a committed base of support in some conservative circles. He laid out familiar themes that often excite his followers.
"The deficit that we're dealing with, and the momentum behind the spending, is so overwhelming that this is only going to be turned around with a major, major event," Paul said.
He continued by reiterating his stances of eliminating the Federal Reserve and income taxes.
"How did we get into this mess?" Paul asked.
"We allowed the wrong kind of people to take over our government. We allowed them to go for all the spending. And we allowed too many people to go to Washington that did not ever take their oath of office seriously. If that's the cause, why shouldn't the solution be: sending only people to Washington who take their oath of office seriously and obey the Constitution."
On Friday night, conservative radio talk-show host Herman Cain brought the crowd to its feet with statements like, "We will survive two more years of Barack Obama until we can replace him."
Pawlenty is so off the mark with this speech it's not funny. I have a hard time believing he believes himself, especially since he's a member of this "ruling class" yet doesn't seem to ever do any actual governing. Also, the party he represents is the one that has expanded government the most over the past 30 years and is not going to stop any time soon.
And his quote from the Constitution? It means absolutely nothing in relation to what he's saying, and was just uttered to rile up the base.
They cheer and shout that they want government to stop interfering and the first crisis that occurs, they demand, "why isn't the government doing more?" The complain about government spending and demand tax cuts. Then, when the government lays off local police or school districts lay off teachers, they scream bloody murder. I've attended the meetings where they demand spending cuts and then, one by one, they explain why they want more farm subsidies, more college tuition funds, more job training and unemployment extensions. What we have here, folks, is a bunch of frauds. What they want is government to stop spending money on everything but each of they're favorite programs. I can't wait to hear what they have to say when they get their wish and the Veterans Administration is privatized and run by Halliburton.
'The government's too damn big!'?!?? What size is 'just right'? Or haven't you figuered that out yet? What size government does David & Charles Koch and Rupert Murdoch want? How about suggesting some real 'tough choices' like taxing the bejeebees out of those millionaire and bilionaire obscene annually compensated cronies that are running this country into the ground.
Did he really say, " thank you for standing up to the ruling class?" He's a politician. He is the ruling class along with his lobbyist, corporate buddies, and rich donators.
The Tea Party's tea bag has been brewed once too often. Time to chuck it out and get some people with common sense–not radicalism and trite slogans–in office.
Wow! So Timmy just made a joke comparing his one liner with that of a crazy dude who got destroyed at the polls? Way to aim high, you worker-hating GreedyOldPig!
Scott Walker has really exposed what the Tea Party is about? I am thankful for that exposure as it gives people a chance is see what their true agenda is, tearing this country apart.
He spews absolute garbage and sells his soul to these d-bags, but we all know he's not going to get elected. He's like Rudy Giuliani Part II, but without the 9/11 story. So pathetic.
you are a joke. the tea party is a joke. you claim to rever the constitution but you throw out 200+ years of constitutional history and decide the constitution is a political document that means what you say it means; you claim spending is out of control but not once do you recommend reigning in the department of defense and the defense contractors that drain the budget dry; you are simply tools of the rich and powerful who want to government to stop interfering with your rape of the environment, your exploitation of the middle class and the poor, and you demand that government generally get out of the way of your lust to enrich yourself at the expense of others. I do have to commend you at successfully dooping the elderly, the retired, and the marginal into thinking that you are somehow on their side.
Hey buddy you were a governor, when have you ever balanced a budget, huh. And imagine taking over an economy GWB left, lol. Face it dude YOU don't stand a chance in hell in the president race, just wishful thinking, but hey fox news will hire ya, lol
Thank you Gov. Pawlenty! May God Bless You!
whos for the party, not palin, newt or mit, they are the rinos and wanna bes, we need a leader and its not welfare obama
Very sad. The man had something going for himself as governor but seems to have lost his way. Being a male Sarah Palin won't get him the white house.
Little Timmy is the 90 lb. weakling that republicans used to beat up on. Now he is appealing to the mentally challenged in the republican part.
If they want Government out of their lives, why are they always trying to tell a woman what to do with their bodies.
Touche. Pawlenty is right. We did let the wrong people taker over our government in 2010. He was talking about the midterms right? Feed facts, not red meat. Although the facts may not go over so well with the Pawlenty cheer squad. Forget my last.
I don’t think he will get tea party votes
Universal health coverage, 0 to 45% tax rate, low interest rate and big unions
Economy growth more than 2% unemployment rate drop 9.7 to 6.4
Not here but in Europe
Hurting unions will reduce the deficit give me break
Short term memory loss must be a "Conservative" thing.
After all it was the deregulation of the banking industry by Republicans that got us into this mess in the first place!
Pawlenty is such an empty suit. He's a pandering idiot that offers nothing except insults.
Yes. All the spending started with Obama.
Pawlenty took $387 Million of stimulus money. He's a complete hypocritical wh*re.
"Survive two more years of Obama until we can replace him." Survive what? An economy that is growing again after the GOP nearly destroyed it, Job growth after the GOP left us losing 700,000 jobs a month by the time Bush left office, survive a stock market that is up nearly 100 % since just a few weeks after Obama took office. Does the GOP think we have amnesia?
It is hardly conservative to hold a three day event that could be held in one day. Spend spend spend Tea Party !! Wasting money is what you do best.
Dude. It isn't going to happen....
All these Republicans are in a panic mode and don't know what to do or say next so they will say anything based on which way the "wind" blows".
[Pawlenty continues stepped-up political attacks, appeals to Tea Party crowd]
And that is ALL he appeals to – and that's GOOD???????????????
This makes me sick. Every time I hear one of these tea party people say liberal power brokers I want to scream. It's the conservatives in our Congress that have allowed these big business guys to take over. Giving tax breaks to the very rich at the expense of our country and the deficit they keep harping on. If they were the least bit serious they would not have approved this extension of the tax break. The Tea Party is supported and backed by the biggest business guys in the country, the Koch Brothers. As is their new hero, Governor Walker. They do not support or advocate for the average Americans in this country. They want smaller government, as long as it doesn't take away any of their entitlements. These hypocrites make me sick.