(Photo: Reuters / Joshua Roberts)
WASHINGTON – Generally identified in the polls as a candidate struggling to draw excitement, presidential contender Tim Pawlenty roused up a large faith audience Friday with strong talk on national defense and traditional values.
Like the other candidates to grace the stage at the Faith and Freedom Conference, Pawlenty denounced the government for overstepping its bounds in the work and health care sectors. Providing a solid national defense, however, is within the government's bounds, said the former governor of Minnesota. Given that role, he said he would take on the role of Commander-in-Chief with authority.
"We can't ... continue to be a great nation unless we're secure," he said. "Let's remember that the individuals and the mindset that perpetuated the horrible acts of September 11, 2001 that killed 3,000 or so of our fellow citizens, that mindset still exists and if they could have killed not 3,000, but 30,000 or 300,000 or 3 million, they would have," he stated.
As president, Pawlenty said he would secure the nation by clearly defining the enemy.
He shared, "We need to stand strong, vigilant and diligent to make sure those threats are identified, called by name, and defeated before they operationalize.
The remarks drew thunderous applause from the conservative Christian crowd and produced a kind of energy that Pawlenty desperately needed to kick his campaign into high gear.
Compared to the other candidates, Pawlenty is recognized by only 50 percent of Republican voters, according to Gallup Polls. Additionally, the polls show that his positive intensity points among GOP voters trail behind Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Herman Cain.
Perceived strength in national defense helped raise President Obama's approval rating to 50 percent in May 2011 after he announced the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden at his behest. Gallup polls show that Obama made gains in every political category, with the biggest increase among conservative Democrats, liberal and moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats.
Similarly, Pawlenty may be looking to score points among conservatives with a strong stance on national defense.
He also connected with evangelicals with a commitment to defend life and traditional marriage.
"We need to keep traditional marriage elevated on a platform. All domestic relationships are not the same as traditional marriage [and] it needs to be protected," he affirmed.
The Faith and Freedom Conference and Strategy Briefing kicked off Friday with conservative Christian voters and a host of GOP presidential hopefuls and candidates. The two-day event is put on by the Faith and Freedom Coalition, led by Ralph Reed, which emphasizes faith, the dignity of life and marriage, personal responsibility, and helping the poor.