Looking to spin his campaign struggles into a gritty turnaround story, Tim Pawlenty’s latest Iowa ad is appropriately titled “The American Comeback.”
The 30-second spot begins with shots of the 1980 US hockey team, who famously beat the heavily favored USSR in the “Miracle On Ice.” It’s a dual metaphor, with Pawlenty linking the come-from-behind image to both the American economy and his own campaign.
“Out here you’re tested,” Pawlenty says in the ad. “You face an opponent experts say can’t be beat. You fight, you bleed, you prevail. Our country’s down but we’re not out. To come back we need a leader with a proven record, not just rhetoric.”
The new message is the most explicit acknowledgement so far that Pawlenty’s slow start may have knocked him out of the top tier of contenders, behind Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, and maybe even the undeclared Rick Perry. In an e-mail to supporters that showcased the ad, Pawlenty made the “comeback” connection to his own campaign explicit in a postscript at the bottom of the message.
“P.S. I’ve always been the underdog who out worked and outlasted my opponents,” he wrote. “And I plan on proving this again, starting in Iowa. I can’t do it alone and appreciate your support.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.