Tim Pawlenty pre-announced his official entry into the 2012 presidential race Sunday with a video promising that he'd tell the hard truths. In Des Moines Monday, the hard truth Pawlenty opened with was telling Iowans that he'd phase out ethanol subsidies, Politico's Kendra Marr reports. The Republican said the government needs to get out "of the business of handing out favors and special deals" and allow "the free market, not freebies" to reign. His truth-telling tour will next take him to Florida, where he'll call for the raising of the Social Security retirement age, then New York, where he'll say it's time to end "the era of bailouts." Pawlenty said he was going against the "conventional wisdom" because "Someone has to finally stand up and level with the American people."

National Review's Katrina Trinko says the speech shows Pawlenty is "planning to charge sacred cows in rhetoric while campaigning." But Slate's Dave Weigel says that Pawlenty's theme is a common one; both Barack Obama and Howard Dean began their campaigns by pledging to overturn party orthodoxies. Obama decried a "failure of leadership" and "the smallness of our politics." Dean lamented "slavishly spewed sound bites" and politicians "paralyzed by their fear of losing office." But Pawlenty will have an even easier task than those Democrats, Weigel writes, because all he has to do is be "the guy who has to be more believable than Mitt Romney."
 
Still, Pawlenty has a history of hitting false notes when trying to show he has the common touch, National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru and Rich Lowry write.
His speeches to conservatives have been notable for their groan-inducing panders. At CPAC in 2010, he led off with a tasteless joke about how conservatives needed to borrow a page from Tiger Woods’s wife and “take a nine iron and smash the window of big government in this country.” He finished that speech with an attack on brie-eating and Chablis-drinking. This year at CPAC, he wasn’t as cringe-worthy, although he did say at one point, “This ain’t about easy,” a line he’s repeated elsewhere. What is it about poor grammar that Pawlenty thinks is so appealing to the conservative grassroots? ...
 
Back in 2008, Mitt Romney got a rap for inauthenticity by shifting rightward on the issues. Pawlenty runs a risk of making himself inauthentic by changing his affect.
Perhaps the truth-telling thing will be Pawlenty's path to threading that needle.