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Look at Pawlenty’s education record, Dems tell young voters

Pawlenty-80_596.jpg
Pawlenty-80_596.jpg

Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty thinks he has what it takes to steal the youth vote away from President Barack Obama, but Democrats are hitting back.

Pawlenty told the Vanderbilt Hustler, a college newspaper, young voters feel “duped” for having voted for Obama in 2008. He said the President has not delivered since his election. Although Obama pushed through student loan reform, and his landmark health insurance overhall included more protection for young people, they have had a much higher unemployment rate in recent years as well.

“For a candidate, I am relatively young. I have a more recent connection to the younger generation than some have or might have had in the past,” Pawlenty said. “We really understand the new era of communications, and that’s why I spend time on Jon Stewart and love to do it. ”

But not so fast, Minnesota Democratic State Rep. Jim Davnie said Friday. At the end of his governorship in Minnesota, Pawlenty cut public higher education by $100 million in 2009, then proposed cutting $47 million in 2010 while saying he would’ve cut more.

“The reduction in state support for higher education opportunities, the high debt load that students leave college with here, and the low, almost non-existence job growth and job development during his tenure all puts together a picture that isn’t inviting to a young voter who wants to get an education, get engaged, get into the world and get a good job,” Davnie told The Iowa Independent.

Davnie was pressed about the similarities between the recent decline of state support to public universities in Minnesota and the tuition increases with what happened in Iowa under two Democratic governors. While Davnie said tuition went up 90 percent at state universities over 10 years, starting in 2001, in-state tuition in Iowa went up 99.7 percent over the same 10 year period.

Iowa has also been ahead of Minnesota every year that the Project on Student Debt has ranked average student debt burdens.

Davnie largely avoided the question, saying he couldn’t speak to situations in other states, but claimed 40 percent of college students were taking non-credit remedial classes as they entered college.

Alex Conant, spokesman for Pawlenty, said, “Gov. Tim Pawlenty made the tough choices necessary to cut out-of-control government spending in Minnesota. Democrats are clearly worried that as more voters get to know Governor Pawlenty, they’ll like his fiscally responsible record and optimistic vision for America.”

But Norm Sterzenbach, executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party, warned not to read into Pawlenty being the first Republican candidate the party has gone after as their reading of Pawlenty as a front-runner.

“We will be taking a hard look at all Republican candidates as they come through,” Sterzenbach said. Since Pawlenty is speaking to college Republicans tonight in Des Moines, they said he happened to be the first target.

Obama won 66 percent of the youth vote in 2008, and recent polling by Harvard’s Institute of Politics found millenials — ages 18 to 29 — gave a 55 percent approval rating of the President. Among students at four-year colleges, Obama’s numbers have increased nine points since last fall to a 60 percent approval rating.

A recent Gallup poll found Pawlenty is still struggling in name recognition among Republicans, behind U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) and Gov. Haley Barbour (R-Miss.).

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