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Presidential candidate Gov. Tim Pawlenty speaks before a group in Orlando, FL

He came across as sincere and committed.  A nice guy in a suit.  Smooth, polished, got the political patter down, which you’d expect after he’s said those same words time and again.  Tim Pawlenty, candidate for US President, was on the stump in Orlando, FL last night.  And we were there to meet him and get his measure.

So we hit the City Beautiful — Orlando — where the event was held in the Grand Bohemian Hotel. I traveled with friends Margie Kinder and James Marshal, executive director of the NAACPC — National Association for the Advancement of Conservative People of All Colors.  It was nice to see Jason Hoyt of the Central Florida Tea Party there too.

While there, I chatted with my local State Rep. Steve Crisafulli, whose family I’ve known since he was a teen growing up on Merritt Island.  Steve’s grandparents came to America from Italy, raised a family on the living they made from the acres of citrus groves they planted on north Merritt Island.  They were some of the best oranges and grapefruits I’ve ever eaten, and Crisafulli’s roadside stand was a regular stop for the bright red mesh bags filled with sweet, juicy Florida goodness.

Pawlenty spoke briefly, explained his agenda, and mentioned challenger Michele Bachmann by name (she was the only one he did bring up… not surprising given the verbal spatting the pair have been engaged in), and stayed to chat, reminding them that he couldn’t take his campaign forward without support — both financial and ground-pounding.

I wanted to ask him what the turning point was for him in making the decision to turn his life upside down and run for the top spot.  But in the brief time I had with him, I mentioned that I was headed to his neighboring state of Wisconsin this weekend to rally with the Tea Party Express in support of Gov. Scott Walker. A quick photo (which didn’t come out!) and he was on to the next guest.

After the “meet and greet” reception, a group of us walked through the downtown street to a restaurant that served amazing concoctions on flat bread. The folks I was with were serious political activitists, some at the local level in their communities, others at the state level, and another — Sarah Rumpf — who is organizing the upcoming CPAC Florida event (yes, CPAC is taking its show on the road, and Orlando is the first stop on Sept. 23rd).  It was great conversation, as you might imagine of a dozen people with strong opinions about the role of government and the constitutional principles that are supposed to guide it.

A couple of hours later, we walked back to the car and guess what we saw?  A power station for all those electric hybrid cars.  Looks like a cross between a parking meter and a filling station vacuum machine.

Photos of the evening here.  Two days from now I’ll be flying to Wisconsin, along with Lloyd Marcus and Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation.  Time to saddle up and ride…

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