From NBC's Mark Murray and msnbc.com's Carrie Dann
Mixing "Minnesota Nice" with a full-throated critique of the Obama White House and government spending, former Minnesota Gov. -- and probable presidential candidate -- Tim Pawlenty delivered a sometimes fiery speech to appeal to the conservative audience at CPAC.
He began his address with plenty of red meat to the conservative audience. "Now, I’m not one who questions the existence of the President’s birth certificate. But when you listen to his policies, don’t you at least wonder what planet he’s from?" he asked. "On what planet do they create jobs by taxing the daylight out of people trying to grow jobs? On what planet do they try to reduce the deficit by spending even more? On what planet do they make health care better by putting bureaucrats in charge?"
Pawlenty took issue with some recent media comparisons between Obama and former President Ronald Reagan - a theme that has provided an oft-used punchline for CPAC attendees for the past two days. "Ladies and gentleman: Barack Obama is not behaving like Ronald Reagan!" he exclaimed. "He’s behaving like Jimmy Carter!
And, testing out a recently formulated stump speech line -- he used it at his speech at the National Press Club last month as well -- he declared, "Just because we followed Greece into democracy, does not mean we need to follow them into bankruptcy!"
Those lines won him an enthusiastic response from a packed audience, much of which was assembled in anticipation of the speaker after Pawlenty -- Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. (Paul, as most know, has a base of fervent, young voters. Because of them, he surprisingly won last year's CPAC straw poll.)
Pawlenty appeared on stage moments at the same time that Obama was speaking in the White House's Grand Foyer on Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's ouster from power. The unrest in Egypt has received wall-to-wall cable coverage throughout the CPAC gathering but has been almost completely ignored at the confab.
But the Minnesota governor did directly -- if briefly -- critique the president's handling of the Egyptian unrest, singling out what he called the president's "appeasement" of an anti-Mubarak group. "We appease Iran, Russia, and adversaries in the Middle East, including Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood," Pawlenty said.
Throughout the speech, Pawlenty underscored his biography as the son of a milk trucker driver and a fiscally conservative governor.
As governor, he said, "I drew a line in the sand and said, "Absolutely not. We're going to live within our means just like families, just like businesses, just like everybody else.'"
The plain-spoken governor - sometimes described by critics as short on pizzazz -- urged that future leadership for the country should be less characterized by flowery speech and more by unglamorous hard work.
Ending on a fiesty note, he said, "We’ve had enough of the hype and speeches filled with rhetoric that soars – but takes us in the wrong direction. This is about rolling up our sleeves, plowing forward, standing tall, and getting the job done."
"We will rise up, as our forefathers did, with the assurance of our time-tested conservative values, the wisdom of the American people, and the courage of our convictions."