Pawlenty: GOP Losing 'Sam's Club Republicans'

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This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," August 12, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HEATHER NAUERT, HOST: The Republican convention is just 20 days away in the fine state of Minnesota — nice folks there. Everyone there seems to be eagerly awaiting the announcement of McCain's running mate, because it could very well be their own governor.

Tim Pawlenty is said to be on the short list of V.P. contenders. He has become a prominent voice in the GOP party by urging his party to become the party of "Sam's Club," not the country club. Take a listen here.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, PRESUMPTIVE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE: There should also be a U.N. mediator. To address this crisis, the United States should fully support this effort.


NAUERT: OK. Well, that certainly wasn't the Republican governor. We'll see if we can get that sound byte in just a minute.

But we are joined by the Minnesota governor himself to explain what is a "Sam's Club Republican."

Who are these folks, governor, and why do you believe that the Republican Party is losing what you called "Sam's Club Republicans"?

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY, R-MINN.: Well, Heather, in short, what the Republican Party needs to do a better job reaching out to different groups than just our traditional groups and one of those is folks who might shop at place like Sam's Club or Target or Costco. They're looking for value. They don't necessarily have more money to spend but they want to make sure they get good value for what they have.

Video: Watch Heather's interview with Tim Pawlenty

So, living within their means and making sure the government lives within its means, it might be one of the measurements of concern for them and what they might be looking for in a candidate.

But they also want to know if you have some ideas that would address their real needs and concerns — in the area of education, in energy, in healthcare, and the like.

And I think the Republican Party has to get back to the party of being a party of ideas and enthusiasm that will help people what their real needs are and what their real concerns are. I don't think we've done as good of a job in that in recent years as we could.

NAUERT: OK. It sounds like you're talking about some of these "Reagan Democrats" of the '80s that John McCain is, of course, hoping to bring in to the party. But, you know, a lot of conservatives feel that the Republican Party has really gotten off course with too much government spending. What do you say to those conservatives who are uncertain about the direction of the Republican Party today?

PAWLENTY: Well, we need to grow the party and make sure it's a party of the conservatives but we also need to get support from independents and conservative Democrats, the so-called "Reagan Democrats" as you mentioned. But, you know, we need to be the party that sort of this (ph) government isn't going to do these things, than what are our ideas to make sure that people's needs and concerns can get addressed. For example, we don't want the federal government to take over health care, which we don't, then how do we empower individuals of limited means or modest means to be able to afford health care?

Well, maybe, Senator McCain's idea for a tax credit to allow people to purchase their own health insurance would be the way to go. That would be one example of not growing the government bureaucracy but still meeting people's needs through market forces, a lot of conservatives, I think, would find that very attractive.

NAUERT: Governor, your name is being thrown out an awful lot there about possibly being John McCain's running mate. So, tell us what you could bring or what you would bring to John McCain's team.

PAWLENTY: Well, I don't talk about the vice president stuff, but thank you for asking, Heather, but in general, Senator McCain is going to have a lot of great people to look at.

He has so many strengths and such a strong leader in his own right, that I think he's going to look for somebody who can, you know, strengthen him in terms of some geographic or policy consideration, somebody who shares his views and maybe his outlook for the country from a philosophical direction. Those are some of the general characteristics I'm sure he'll consider.

NAUERT: OK, you're not giving us anything there. But it is said that you two share a close relationship and, really, a political philosophy and style that's the same.

PAWLENTY: Well, I think Senator McCain is a leader of enormous courage and epic abilities. I think the country is calling him out. They need somebody like him. I think he's going to be a fantastic president for the United States of America.

NAUERT: All right. Governor, we're going to have to leave it there. Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota — thank you so much for joining us tonight.

PAWLENTY: You're welcome. Thanks for having me.

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