Pawlenty Just Announced: Quick, Say Something

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty yesterday announced that he was forming a presidential exploratory committee, making him the first Republican candidate to do so this cycle—Gingrich only announced he was exploring the idea of an exploratory committee. Pawlenty made the announcement in a video posted to his Facebook page, which, incidentally, you had to “like” in order to fully view.

The announcement was suitably overshadowed by larger events going on in the world. But even against that backdrop election watchers seemed pointedly muted on the news. At the very least, their reactions were a touch forced.

Most did note the pop and sizzle of the announcement video, assembled by Lucas Baiano, a twenty-three-year-old conservative media wunderkind with a penchant for Bruckheimer-y orchestral pomp and that overexposed quick-cut hand-held stuff popularized in Gladiator.

Slate’s Alex Pareene might have said it best: “It’s like some awful J.J. Abrams film, with the shaky cam and the lens flare. Pawlenty is the only true mysterious killer space mutant in the race!” But the Abrams-Scott style probably does work in a way: at least the Pawlenty effect—usually something akin to downing two Xanax pills with a shiraz chaser—is warded off by all of this sound and fury.

Aside from that, there was little stir to be made. At Vanity Fair, Juli Weiner essentially says that this political ad is much like every other political ad in history (even though she doesn’t say that’s what she’s saying):

No, what struck us about the video was its extremely literal pairings of words and images: for instance, childhood pictures of the newly Republican candidate accompany the phrase “at a young age;” a sun rises over a hilltop as Pawlenty reveals “there is a brighter future for America,” etc. Sometimes, though, there is no appropriate (Getty stock) image for some of his more abstract points.

Speaking of Getty, that was the other story to come out of Pawlenty’s new release: he used Getty for his (limited) stock footage of smiling minority members.

The Daily Caller and Politico set the Tardis to 2007 and teased out the social media aspects of the story. From the DC:

Ben Smith posted an e-mail on his blog from Democratic media strategist Sam Graham-Felsen criticizing the nature of the roll out:

“The whole point of launching a campaign on Facebook is to give your supporters the exclusive over the press … By leaking the Facebook launch to the press many hours ahead of time, Pawlenty is undermining the whole idea of a ’social media launch.’ You can’t have your grassroots cake and eat it too,” he said.

The timing of the announcement—3 p.m, when most people are at work, and many of them in offices that block Facebook—also seemed somewhat odd. But Patrick Ruffini of political media firm Engage, who is serving as an unpaid adviser to Pawlenty’s campaign, explained that 3 p.m is the time when traffic on Facebook peaks.

He disputed Graham-Felsen’s criticism. “He’s [Pawlenty] obviously built up a loyal following over the last year,” Ruffini said, “and he just wanted to say thank you to those people who were there at the very beginning.”

Okay, maybe the Pawlenty effect is still going strong.

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Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor. Tags: , , ,