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Tim Pawlenty: Meeting and Greeting on Mike Huckabee’s Arkansas Turf

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Arkansas doesn’t have the political star power of Iowa or New Hampshire, but that isn’t stopping potential 2012 presidential hopefuls from visiting.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty popped into the state this week to meet with GOP elected officials and leaders. His journey to the land of former Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee was the first this year for a likely GOP contender for the White House.

Pawlenty had no public events in Arkansas, but this wasn’t about selling books and giving a speech to the masses. Pawlenty’s visit focused on networking and making big-money connections.

“Pawlenty has the gift of time and he’s using some of that time to make connections in places that are in play — or potentially in play,” said Jay Barth, chairman of the Department of Politics and International Relations at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. “Arkansas falls in the latter category if Huckabee stays out of the race or has to drop out if he fails in Iowa.”

Pawlenty hosted a roundtable with new GOP elected officials and the party’s state chairman. He then spoke to about 30 state executive committee members and party leaders about his vision for the country and answered questions. According to sources at the meeting, Pawlenty made it clear he is contemplating a presidential run, but has not yet reached a decision.

His presence in Arkansas certainly resonated with GOP leaders, who said privately that they viewed his visit as a salute to a state that gained more Republican federal and legislative seats in 2010 than it has ever had in the modern political era.

But Pawlenty’s visit also underscored two other key points.

First, politicians pondering a presidential run aren’t scared to trek into the turf of native son Huckabee, who leads in some 2012 polls. Secondly, the state is also home to a lot of potential GOP cash.

Last year, Huckabee announced that he was moving to Florida. In Arkansas, some Republicans saw the move as egotistical and a slap in the face to a state that had supported Huckabee, the longest serving Republican governor, at a time when Republicans had little power.

But Huckabee, who stays busy with many projects, including a weekly show on Fox News, didn’t turn his back on Arkansas. He appeared at a major campaign rally last fall for the GOP ticket and his Huck PAC supported many candidates in the midterm elections.

Huckabee has not had any public events this year in Arkansas. On his upcoming tour for his new book “A Simple Government,” Arkansas is not a scheduled stop but several 2012 key states (Iowa, South Carolina and Florida) as well as Southern states that border Arkansas (Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi) are.

But Huckabee says he walks a fine line as a former governor coming in to meet with local politicians. He says he doesn’t want people to think he is “butting in their business” at the state capitol.

“I try to keep a low profile in Arkansas because I don’t feel it appropriate to get publicly involved in the goings on of state government,” he told Politics Daily. “I have talked to friends there and would be delighted to talk with those who wanted my counsel, but I am not going to impose myself.”

This week’s visit was Pawlenty’s second to Arkansas in less than two years. In June 2009, he spoke to 400 people at a fundraiser for the state Republican Party.

At this stage for candidates testing the presidential waters, it’s about raising enough money to remain in the conversation and signing up major business leaders to be on a campaign team. Despite its low average income, Arkansas consistently rates near the top when it comes to the number of millionaires per capita and it is home to Wal-Mart, Murphy Oil, Tyson Foods and Stephens Inc., to name a few high-profile companies.

Republican Lt. Governor Winthrop Paul Rockefeller, who died in 2006, was a billionaire oil heir and his widow, Lisenne, is still a generous donor to the Republican Party.

Stephens Group Inc., and the Stephens family, have been a major player in national politics. Last October, Stephens Investments Holdings LLC gave $100,000 to American Crossroads, a 527 organization that defends and elects “center-right candidates to federal office.”

Even if Pawlenty chooses not to run for president, which is looking ever less likely, the connections that he develops on his journeys — next week he hits the Tea Party Summit in Phoenix — will only help his Freedom First PAC and book sales.

And as for Arkansas, it will probably not be a 2012 battleground state, but it could play an oversized role in the the political money game.

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Written by suziparker1313

March 10, 2011 at 3:55 am

Bill Clinton: Economic Literacy a Must for America

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SPRINGDALE, Ark. – It’s the economy, stupid. Still.

That’s according to Bill Clinton, who returned to his old stomping grounds Wednesday to address the topic about which he has been called an expert.

Springdale is an appropriate place to talk economics. The region is the home of two of the world’s largest companies – Tyson Foods, Inc. and Walmart.

Both companies sponsored the fundraising luncheon for the private non-profit, non-partisan Economics Arkansas, which promotes training for K-12 teachers to integrate economic and personal finance concepts into the classroom. Twenty-one states have such classes in school. This fall, all ninth grade students in Arkansas will be required to take an economics course.

Clinton, in a black suit and pale green tie, received a standing ovation when he entered the room over an hour late.

“The mess we got into in this country is that people didn’t have enough economic literacy,” Clinton told the 1,000 people gathered in the Holiday Inn Convention Center. “Economics became of less concern to people.”

In his view, the recent financial meltdown and recession can be tracked to that lack of concern. In the last decade, Americans maxed out credit cards and took advantage of the subprime mortgage situation. “We pay a terrible price when people don’t understand economics.”

Clinton did not say he supported another stimulus package, but strongly cautioned Washington about passing another one, considering the size of the national debt. Government bonds are bought by China and other countries instead of individuals and American companies as was the case during the Great Depression.

“Since we are on the dole, we can’t enforce our own trade agreements,” Clinton said.
He stressed that Washington needs to focus on corporate treasuries and banks. Corporations need to invest more and banks need to loan more money to small businesses and individuals to stimulate the economy.

“We need to figure out whatever is needed to get that done,” he said. “What would make bankers feel good? Until that happens we aren’t going back” to a balanced and thriving economy.

Earlier in the day, he popped into a coffee shop and ran into the daughter of a deceased friend. He spoke to a meeting of a local economic council and visited the construction site of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, a mammoth project funded by Walmart heiress Alice Walton.

Later, he was to visit the house where he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton married in 1975. The street in front of the 1930s English-style house was renamed last week from California Boulevard to Clinton Drive.

Indeed, throughout his luncheon speech, Clinton seemed wistful and homesick for Arkansas. He talked about old political allies and singled them out in the crowd.

“I think about you more than you might imagine,” he said.

Written by suziparker1313

March 7, 2011 at 5:15 pm