Ames, Iowa (CNN) - Presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty continued his appeal for votes on Thursday by playing up his executive experience as the former governor of Minnesota.
And as he faces stubbornly low poll numbers in the Republican race for the White House, the candidate appears to be working to gain more traction by repeatedly highlighting his accomplishments in order to contrast with the shortcomings of his opponents. But he avoids throwing sharp elbows by mentioning names.
The candidate spoke to a small room of voters gathered at a church in Ames, Iowa. It is in this city where a looming, high-stakes political drama will play out. The August 13 Ames Straw Poll will test Pawlenty's popularity, along with that of other GOP candidates.
During his speech, Pawlenty implored the assembled voters to attend the straw poll and support his campaign.
He urged listeners to back "somebody who can actually beat Barack Obama," adding, "Somebody who has the executive experience to have run something large and [has] driven it to results with a public component and so that the rest of the country says, 'Yeah, that person can be president. And that they can actually function.'"
At another point – while slamming the president's past as an Illinois state senator and community organizer – Pawlenty said, "You can't put somebody in the Oval Office who hasn't had executive experience leading a large enterprise."
"We can't make that mistake again," he said, specifically referring to the president.
And at still another point, Pawlenty urged the crowd to carefully "think about the other leading candidates" and whether or not they appeal to just one segment of the Republican Party.
"If we put somebody forward in Iowa, or more broadly in this process, who appeals to one chunk of the coalition but not all of it – we're going to start with a disunited party or an underwhelming effort," Pawlenty said.
He later added: "I ask you to think about it before you launch the rocket out of here, which will be the first step in the process. Make sure it's the rocket that can go all the way to the destination we seek. Everybody's gonna say they can do that. But I got elected and re-elected as a movement conservative in Minnesota."
Pawlenty did not mention names of the "other leading candidates."
But among the other well-known contenders, Rep. Michele Bachmann is a three-term congresswoman – but does not have executive experience in government and gets a considerable amount of her appeal from the tea party movement. She also tops Pawlenty in several recent polls ahead of the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses.
Pawlenty recently took a direct shot at Bachmann, saying on NBC's "Meet the Press," "I like Congresswoman Bachmann. I've campaigned for her. I respect her, but her record of accomplishment in Congress is non-existent."
"We're not looking for folks who just have speech capabilities," Pawlenty added. "We're looking for who can lead a large enterprise in a public setting and drive it to conclusion. I have done that; she hasn't."
Bachmann responded in a statement by saying she'd highlight her accomplishments - and avoid "negativity."
Meanwhile, others in the GOP race such as businessman Herman Cain, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also jockey against Pawlenty for support in the polls – and also lack executive experience in government.
Mitt Romney is the former governor of Massachusetts and Jon Huntsman is the former governor of Utah. But neither is competing as much in Iowa as others such as Bachmann, Paul and Cain.
CNN asked Pawlenty about his opponents' lack of "executive experience" after his speech. The candidate would only repeat his previous comments.
"Well regardless of any particular candidate, I think one of the criteria the American people are going to look for – after the broken promises and failed rhetoric and failed leadership of Barack Obama who had no experience – is this: we want somebody in the Oval Office who has led something, a large enterprise under difficult circumstances and driven it to conclusion and results and have a public component to all of that."
"I think that's the kind of person, and …one of the credentials we need for the next president of the United States."
- Follow Shannon Travis on Twitter: @ShanTravisCNN
Obama has no experience with the private sector, so almost all of the GOP candidates are better.
Let me look around the room before I say this - is he here? Is Pawlenty around? No? Well, then, aehm - Pawlenty left my beloved state in absolute fiscal shambles. Yeah, did that sound tough? Yeah, I played hockey once. I'm tough.
I see Pawlenty is now resorting to throwing stones through his glass house.
This man is super passive agressive and will never be president. Just look at the photo and his demeanor, he makes me want to puke! Mr. Mouse Man!
Those bridges that collapsed show true executive leadership!!
Given the election of Obama, it seems the average American simply doesn't care. The next election however, may be quite different given the overall failure of the administration.
Funny – whenever I hear Pawlenty speaking, I feel a great urge to take a nap.
You need to get your own state together before you begin to wreck the whole country. Minnesota is soo divided. As is Wisconsin. No one wants to live like that. What is wrong with you people. You think everyone gets their news from Murdoch and friends. Not. But you are correct Bachmanns' rocket doesn't go to far. Probably too consumed with painkillers. The public does realize when she's off on those painkiller drugs you know. Her eyes are really glassy and she stares into space just as Chris Mathews said from MSNBC. when some people on the street are broke and hurting they tend to turn to drugs to forget about the pain, and so does Bachmann.
Are you serious? Sounds like Sarah Palin in drag to me.
Quit before you make a fool of yourself!
I don't know the guy with the background in pizza sales seems to have the most executive experience!
Look at what is happening in Minesota right now. He created that. A man you want for the top job?
keep bringing up your experience. You left MN a MESS. nice experience
Yes, good idea...highlight that you have "executive experience" when your term in office messed things up so bad the state shut down after you left. #Winning.
Of course that includes calling himself out right? No expereince to see here please keep moving...
Tim Pawlenty is so boring I fell asleep reading this article.
"You can't put somebody in the Oval Office who hasn't had executive experience leading a large enterprise."
Shut the front door!!! Seriously T-Paw? After what we've seen these past two weeks in Minnesota, you're preaching to us about leadership? GTFOOH! You brought a large enterprise to a crumbling halt. Have you asked yourself recently why your poll numbers are so low? You can't honestly look yourself in the mirror every morning and believe you're going to be the next POTUS or Vice POTUS for that matter.
All the republicans candidates missing one Likeable so who care what they say
None of the other candidates have the experiance of running a state in the ground like Tim did.
He has experience alright. Running MN into the ground for years to come.
Wake up people we are facing a government shut down and the House of Representitives have taken off for the weekend......they are the ones putting up the road blocks so that nothing gets passed, they won't compromise even and inch......all you people who voted these idiots in are now reaping what you sowed.......but come next election the rest of america will show you Republicans and Tea Baggers we have had enough of your NO and STALL TACTICS and pandering to only your party and the rich while the country goes down the tubes......if there is a Govenment shutdown full blame will fail in the lap of the GOP and the radical Tea Baggers........2012 will be great victories for the Democrats.....
T-Paw must be gettin' a hot foot. Polling numbers going down. Fund raising is still down. Time is not on his side. He needs to make something happen in his favor, like *right now*. The problem is that things have fallen in his favor only he lacked the courage to stick to his guns and stand by his own words.
He has had at least 3 major "walk backs" on comments he has made that are critical of his opponents. That means one of three things:
1. He's broken Reagan's rule about criticizing fellows.
2. He lacks the courage to stand by his words, even when he's right.
3. All of the above.
Wow! T-Paw is really taking his chances by pointing out the truth that Bachmann has accomplished nil, nada, zip, nuffin, in her three terms. That will surely cause the Tea Party types to come out in force against him. As for his low poll numbers, just think what they would be like if he were to be polled in other states where the typical response would be, "Oh, you mean the guy who was Governor of Minnesota when the I-35 Bridge collapsed?" That does a lot to bolster his executive credentials rep.
Little Timmy does not have the stones to "mention names". Accomplishments?: When , where, cannot seem to find
any accomplishments for Little Timmy. CNN – do you have the right person here?
I love it! The GOP recycling tired old 'executive experience' lines, that didn't work in 2008 either, to attack fellow GOP.