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Pawlenty calls for a more diverse GOP

From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
MIAMI -- Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty
(R) laid out his vision for the Republican Party and how it can move
forward. It needs to get younger, more diverse and build a broader
coalition, he said here at the Republican Governors Association
conference a little more than a week after Republicans lost the
presidency and suffered big losses in both the US House and Senate.

"If we're going to successfully travel the
road, as a Republican, we need to see clearly, and be honest about
where we've been and where we're headed," he said.

Pawlenty implored the room of Republicans not
to give in to the emerging reform-versus-traditional arguments as to
what's wrong with the party.

"If we're going to be the majority," he said,
"we're going to have to see we need to grow the party. We cannot
compete in the Northeast, the West; we're losing seats in the Great
Lakes region. We have a large deficit with women, Hispanics, African
Americans -- people with modest financial circumstances. That is not a
formula for a majority."

Pawlenty stressed that the Party both needs to
modernize and be true to its values. "Both are true, and both can be
harmonized."

How?

Pawlenty said the party's values and principles
are "time tested." "We can build on them. We can be both conservative
and modern at the same time."

Pawlenty went on to emphasize fiscal policy (particularly on reducing debt), health care, education, and energy.

On the latter, he delivered a line that might sound like an opening 2012 shot at Palin. "'Drill baby, drill' by itself is not an energy policy," he said. "It's not enough. We're going to need wind and solar and bio mass."

That got a round of applause.

He added that the party couldn't be "co-conspirators" with big business and big unions, adding that the party had to reconnect with average working people and could no longer be viewed as a party of the rich.

Pawlenty has often talked about Sam's Club Republicanism -- the need to connect with Sam's Club shoppers instead of being perceived as the party of the Country Club. He expanded that to include K-Mart and Costco, people of "moderate means" and "small-business owners."

He also said the party needed to move beyond Ronald Reagan. "We all grew up in the age of Reagan," he said. "I passed out fliers for him; I got spat on by hippies. But he was president a long time ago."

He said Republicans needed to start confronting issues like health care, energy, and education. "Don't talk about it (health care)?" he said, referring to Republican candidates' aversion to addressing the issue. "It's one of the most pressing needs for our country."

Pawlenty kept it light, peppering jokes and self-deprecating humor through his speech in order to get across his message -- a little Minnesota nice with some tough medicine. 

"We're going to have our differences," he said. "But in places like the Northeast and Minnesota and out West, there aren't enough Republicans to throw people overboard."