GOP's Pawlenty praises Obama's positive tone

Pawlenty Sams Club
Minnesota Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty says both Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and former President Ronald Reagan offer important lessons for today's GOP.Jim Mone / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, often mentioned as a possible running mate for Republican presidential candidate John McCain, said Wednesday GOP candidates would do well to adopt a positive tone like that of McCain's Democratic rival Barack Obama.

"Say what you will about Barack Obama," the Minnesota Republican told a conservative group, "people gravitate when you have something positive to say." He added that McCain has been positive as well.

"People want to follow hopeful, optimistic, civil, decent leaders," Pawlenty said in a speech to GOPAC, which helps recruit Republican candidates. "They don't want to follow some negative, scornful person."

Ronald Reagan still offers important lessons for today's Republican Party, Pawlenty said, because the former president was civil, optimistic, pragmatic and a good communicator.

"He actually had some ideas," Pawlenty said, adding that the Republican idea factory has seemed "a little stagnant in recent years."

Pawlenty, 47, said he came of age during President Reagan's tenure in the 1980s, but acknowledged the Republican icon is ancient history to young people.

"If you're under 40, that was a long time ago, man," he said to laughter.

The party needs to update its message to appeal to voters who want new ideas and government results and to counter the perception that Republicans are "not for the working person," Pawlenty said. He advocated policies like better training and performance pay for teachers, online college education opportunities, and reworking health insurance to reward providers that show good results and save money.

Pawlenty shied away from talking about joining McCain on the ticket.