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!)