In spite of his passionate delivery, Pawlenty's speech had a civil tone -- which he insisted was necessary in politics. He said overheated vitriol and accusations from both sides were "very corrosive, not just to the debate but to democracy more generally."
But Pawlenty did throw in some partisan red meat. He opened the speech by poking fun at the president. "Well, thank you very much, or as Pres. Obama would say, 'you're welcome,'" he joked. Pawlenty attacked Obama's health care reform as moving the country closer to tyranny, and called the nation's spending "unsustainable," likening it to an open bar at a wedding.
While touting his free trade bona fides, Pawlenty also accused China of playing loose with the rules. "I'm a strong free trader," he said, "but I'm not for being a chump."
After the speech, National Journal asked Pawlenty if one of the reasons he might choose to run would be to keep education reform in the conversation.
"That issue is so profoundly important if we don't fix it and fix it relatively quickly it's going to severely damage our ability to be successful," he said. "If you ask people today what their most pressing concerns are, it's jobs and the economy...That doesn't mean there isn't room in the discussion for some other things. One of them should be education, accountability and improvement. I've got strong views about that."