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At rally, Tim Pawlenty adds tea party style to conservative credentials

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a likely Republican candidate for president with strong credentials but a rap for being 'unexciting,' sought to show a little flair at a tea party rally in Friday.

By Aaron Couch / April 15, 2011

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty speaks at the Greater Boston Tea Party's third annual "Tax Day" rally in Boston, Friday.

AP Photo/Winslow Townson

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Boston

The street vendors selling “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and Sarah Palin bobblehead dolls left no doubt that the tea party had again come to Boston Friday. But the man here to address them was perhaps less immediately recognizable – and he came here to help change that.

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Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who conservatives praise for his budget-trimming policies in Minnesota, took the first step toward a presidential bid last month when he formed an exploratory committee. Since then, analysts have noted he has a record that Republicans will likely embrace but a style less colorful than many prominent Republicans.

In Boston, Mr. Pawlenty criticized President Obama’s fiscal policies, called for a balanced budget amendment, touted his record as governor, and – perhaps more interestingly – gave a peek at what a Pawlenty presidential run might look like. He must battle for name recognition, says Kathryn Pearson, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota.

“He may also be seen as unexciting,” she adds.

His lower profile was evident in the turnout of this year's Boston tea party tax day event. Anne McClure, who attended last year event, noted it had been “much more crowded” last year, when former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin headlined.

“He’s an interesting person to watch,” said Ms. McClure, who admires Pawlenty’s record, but does not yet know who she will support for the nomination.

Despite his mild-mannered reputation, Pawlenty seemed loose during his speech, making a series of jokes. He said Republicans could learn something from the "Rent is too damn high” party, the much lampooned, one-member party from last year's New York gubernatorial race. Pawlenty said he admired the simplicity of that party's message, and suggested Republicans follow suit with a simple message of their own: “The government is too damn big.”

In a CNN poll released Tuesday, just 2 percent of Republicans named Pawlenty as their first choice for the Republican nomination. This put him behind Donald Trump and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who ranked first with 19 percent of respondents choosing them. Ms. Palin, Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and several others finished ahead of Pawlenty, as well.

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