The Southernization of Tim Pawlenty

A bit of a kerfuffle is brewing between the New York Times and New York Magazine over whether former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is developing a southern accent as he campaigns for president.

In a profile today, the Times noticed what, frankly, a few Minnesotans noticed: that Pawlenty was dropping the “g” on his gerunds:

The knock on Mr. Pawlenty, according to conversations with voters, is that his speeches sound sincere but do not always sizzle. At a faith forum last week in Iowa, he displayed vigor. But the next day at the Statehouse, the talk among several Republicans was that it seemed he had suddenly developed a Southern accent as he tried connecting to voters by speaking louder and with more energy.

The political blog of Radio Iowa heard it too and noted, “Pawlenty seems to be adopting a Southern accent as he talks about his record as governor.” As he spoke of the country’s challenges, he dropped the letter G, saying: “It ain’t gonna be easy. This is about plowin’ ahead and gettin’ the job done.”

New York Magazine thinks the Times is making it up:

Frankly, we haven’t heard Pawlenty speak enough to know if the folksy accent he exhibited in the speech was uncommon for him. But we’re at least pretty sure that we hear Pawlenty say getting, not gettin’, in the line plucked out by the Times. Watch the clip and determine for yourself whether the Times is nitpickin’.

A lot of politicians have gone this route when trying to sound like an “average person.”

But a listen to the governor’s recent speech in Iowa seemed to suggest something more. Here is a comparison between some words he used at his State of the State speech in February 2010 and words he used during his speech in Iowa. You may note the difference in which syllable is accented. See if you can hear any difference. (Sorry, iPad users, this is built in Flash and you won’t see it. But at least you’re still the coolest kids in the room!)

  • Jim G

    I noticed it at the Iowa event. I mentioned it to my wife. He must have followed a southerner on the agenda. It’s a very easy dialect to pick up. Everytime I talk to my Georgia counsins I start hank’rn for grits.

  • Bob Moffitt

    What do you expect? He grew up in South St. Paul, after all….

  • John O.

    Do they say ‘Yah, sure, you betcha y’all” in South St. Paul?

  • yee-haw

    Maybe he’s possessed. Do you think Pawlenty might be channeling Abraham Lincoln? or Jefferson Davis? or Willie Nelson?

  • >>Do they say ‘Yah, sure, you betcha y’all” in South St. Paul?

  • Jamie

    I’ve noticed this for a few weeks now. In a few different speeches. I don’t think it’s because he was following southerners.

  • yeehaw

    ohhh, I get it !

    He ate something that was southern!

    Nottin’ like a little ‘down home’ cookin’

  • Phil

    As someone from South Saint Paul (third generation baby) who has lived in Eastern Washington for the past seven years my accent is more intact than his. How does that happen? Mine is watered down, but I wasn’t home, what’s his excuse?

    And yes, my family does say “ja sure” and “you betcha” but not always together.

  • Suzanne

    He’s trying to beat Bachman to the punch on developing a Palin accent…

  • Paul

    As the song says, ” the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind” or in this case, someone who is seriously in denial (he balanced budgets, he stopped the bleed to the unions, he, he… , he…) iand now holding his finger in the wind and discovering he needs to soud like a southern wacco to be accepted as “one of ’em” sine that stuff about Sams’ Club Republican ain’t holding water.

  • Wendy Burt

    Pawlenty, who is educated and a lawyer, started to sound more “folksy” as far back as Jan/Feb 2009 and Jan 2010 when I heard him speak at Minnesota Chamber events. This is not new to those of us in MN. And it’s gotten more pronounced as he’s gotten deeper into his campaign.

  • Jamie

    What does his being “educated and a lawyer” have to do with anything?

  • Mike

    An educated lawyer from MN should not sound like he’s from Mizzerra…..

  • Todo

    Tim Pawlenty was channeling Tim Brewster. Next thing we know, he will be telling his supporters that he is taking them to the White House.

  • bsimon

    “An educated lawyer from MN should not sound like he’s from Mizzerra…..”

    And a new england blueblood with a yale undergrad & harvard MBA shouldn’t sound like a texas cowpoke. Pawlenty is following a script that has played well in the past.

  • Robert Franklin
  • tl

    Totally scripted. Trying to find a new “base” now that he completely blew it here in MN.

  • Ken

    The silliness of hearing him trying to be what he is not is off-putting. The thought it might be done in desperation to make others like him more is a little bit sad. MPR playing Sweet Home Alabama as this story ended on the air was priceless. I laughed out loud as the first notes were struck. Thanks!

  • Nick

    Ha Ha Ha! This just make laugh! Thanks, Tim. I needed that today.

  • Mary

    Politicians do this all the time, and so do the rest of us. I think it’s natural. I was amused to see a similar story not long ago about President Obama slipping into moderated “jive talkin” when addressing a black crowd. He sounded like a goof.

  • a fellow minnesotan

    I noticed something that made me feel that I could not trust him when we was first govenor of our state or when he was running for govenor.He was on a rock radio station and talking like one type of person, very against helping those in need and then he was on a very well respected radio station, an AM station, here in the Twin Cities and it was like he put on his Sunday to go meeting clothes, totally different style, maybe that is okay, but it felt rather strange to me. I have never forgotten hearing that.

  • Jen

    @yee-haw – he SHOULD be following Willie Nelson – maybe some of that second hand smoke will straighten him out. I always laugh when Rachel pretends to nod when discussing him.

  • Matthew Vadum

    This is garbage. What a waste of resources. Pawlenty doesn’t sound dramatically different in the clips. Dream on, lefties.

  • Bob Collins

    //doesn’t sound dramatically different

    In other words, he sounds different, just not “dramatically so.”

  • Baba

    //doesn’t sound dramatically different

    In other words, he sounds different, just not “dramatically so.”

    Just enough to fool some of the people, some of the time.

  • Mike`

    I’ve noticed Obama does the same thing. I think it has less to do with trying to appeal to a certain demographic, than it has to do with trying to sound like a “regular Joe” and like you’re “decisive and determined”. For some reason, the “drawl” is what we fall back on when trying to do so.

    I know, because I’ve done it myself a time or two, without even thinking about it. Hell, I actually used “reckon” once in a sentence and was called on it. I have no freaking clue where that came from, but it amused me when it was pointed out to me.

  • Erin

    Ridiculous! This guy is a joke and an embarrassment for the state of Minnesota; him and Bachmann. Why is he governor again?? Reminds me a bit of Bush. Get him out of here.

  • Bob Collins

    // Why is he governor again??

    He’s not. He didn’t run for re-election. Mark Dayton is the governor of Minnesota.

  • Dean J. Seal

    Pawlenty made Minnesota much more like Texas (lower taxes, big deficits, concealed weapons, education cuts, bigger prisons) and now he sounds like he is all Texas himself. EGAD! He was a Texan the Whole Time!

  • Joe

    I was so afraid that Pawlenty might actually be electable. After this stupid “southern drawl” stunt

    and his lame explanation I’m no longer afraid. Whew! “Go boah! Keep ‘er goin’!”

  • Wow….it sounds like he’s trying to effect palin-speak… Shame….Minnesotans have such a pleasant accent..

    And @Mike: it’s only republicans that call it ‘Mizzerra’ …. everybody else calls it ‘Mizzeree’….!

  • Linda B

    It is discouraging and of concern that a candidate will go to these lengths to get elected. Does Pawlenty think he cannot get elected based on his record or who he really is and what he really stands for? This whole stunt makes me wonder who is the real Tim Pawlenty and what would he REALLY do in office? Would that change every time he spoke to a different group? Who could ever elect someone that wishy washy to be our next president? I don’t trust him.

  • It’s easy to pick up a southern drawl. Just start talking faster, and don’t pay close attention to your diction.

    It just shows that Tim is more relaxed while public speaking.

  • Stacy Wahl

    Heard him on the radio and didn’t recognize his voice at all! Neurolinguistic efforts at gaining the Southern Republican vote?

  • notasleep2

    Going back to the time when Pawlenty was first elected, I saw right through him and I proved myself right.

    The resemblence to Hitler without a mustache went deeper than physical attribute. Elimination of safety nets bring a longer term suffering toward an end.

    He is hate inspiring, and Bachman is worse.

  • Meade

    Frankly, I dont hear much difference. Sounds like he has a cold in the second clips. Also, aren’t Minnesota people know to have very nasal twangs? I dont know, but they sound like that to me usually.