EXCLUSIVE: Potential McCain VP: Revamp Party Image

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WASHINGTON - Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is widely speculated to be among Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain's top pick for vice president.

Pawlenty spoke exclusively with CBN News White House Correspondent Melissa Charbonneau after his Washington, D.C., address to the National Press Club, Wednesday.

Gov. Pawlenty called on the GOP to expand the party by reaching out "Sam's Club Republicans," whom he described as Reagan Democrats who share GOP values.

Click on the links below to watch the full interview.

 Gov. Pawlenty: Defining Sam's Club Voters

Tim Pawlenty: Sam's Club Republicans is a metaphor for those people who don't necessarily have a lot of money to spend, or more money to spend, but they want to get better value. So, to translate that into government, it's more effective government, but at a better price, and so looking for ways to say, how can we deliver services better, delivering more value to our customers?

And so a signature issues, for example, would be energy. How are we going to hold down, or at least contain energy prices, hopefully making them better over time? How do we deliver more value to our citizens with that kind of issue?

Melissa Charbonneau:  Now are these Republicans who feel disenfranchised? You mentioned that, or are they Reagan Democrats who've been voting Democrat for years?

TP: I think it's a re-branding or an updating of the label of Reagan Democrats. These are folks who might be either bouncing back and forth between parties. Or may be conservative Democrats, or unaffiliated. But they've got some basic bread-and-butter concerns like, how am I going to pay for the gas in my car or the heat in my house? How am I going to get my family health care insurance? And, are my children going to get a good education? Because that's so important in these times. And I think Republicans can gain support by speaking to those bread-and-butter issues in ways that are clear understandable and meaningful.

 Gov. Pawlenty: Evolving Evangelicals

MC: You talked about that evangelical vote and the upcoming evangelical generation, how they're not monolithic, not one big bloc, and Republicans can't take them for granted and should work to earn their support. Is it possible to earn the support of these, to grow the party with Sam's Club Republicans, and not offend or run the evangelical voters?

TP: Oh absolutely. The Sam's Club Republicans concept speaks to economic values, but it does not exclude. In fact, I think it embraces all of the social and cultural values that are so important to the Republican party as well, and that includes things like the value of family. People go to Sam's Club, in part, not just because they are small business owners, but also because they have large families - and family is important, and family budgets are important.

And so, I think appreciation for marriage, appreciation for traditional marriage, appreciation and respect for life -- those values and others that are so near and dear to the evangelical community are not inconsistent. In fact, they are consistent, in my view, with Sam's Club Republicans.

 Gov. Pawlenty: Splitting the Difference

MC: In the past, evanglicals have seemed to vote in a bloc. Do you think it's splitting up, because some are splitting off into environmental issues, global AIDS, and poverty, and some may be sticking to issues of abortion, and traditional marriage, that kind of thing?

TP: I think it's also just the generational change. I think we're going through a generational change in the faces and voices of the evangelical movement. And there's a little bit of baton passing going on, and so as that happens, and as the next generation of leaders emerge, they're going to want to put their own kind of stamp and agenda together.

But it's really an agenda, from an evangelical standpoint, that's biblically based. And I don't really think it's one or two things. It's really, what are the values that we want as a culture, as a society, as a country, in terms of how we treat each other economically? What kind of respect we have for our traditional values like marriage and life and down the road. But also, increasingly, concerns about, well, if God gave us this planet, are we being good stewards of it? That's not inconsistent with, you know, a kind of Creator-care perspective, and one, I think, Republicans should be very, very mindful of.

 Gov. Pawlenty: Crossing Over

TP: It's not just one thing. I don't think there are many voters who are going to say, 'I'm only going to vote because of climate or the environment.' I think if you are an evangelical concerned about these issues, you're also going to be concerned about a number of other issues that I think Republicans can do well.

And increasingly, you're seeing Republicans and conservatives engage on energy, and conservation, and the environment. So I think our prospects are actually improving in that regard, not declining.

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CBN News
Melissa Charbonneau

Melissa Charbonneau

White House Correspondent

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