Republican Tim Pawlenty is using a trip to Chicago Tuesday to slam President Barack Obama's economic policies. It's Pawlenty's first big speech since announcing his bid for the White House.
The former Minnesota governor spoke at the University of Chicago - not literally in the president's backyard, but just a few blocks away. Pawlenty wasted no time before criticizing Mr. Obama for the stimulus package, government bailouts of American auto companies and for the anemic pace of economic growth.
Pawlenty's speech also touched on several specific policies, most of which fell under the aegis of either lowering taxes, cutting regulation or shrinking government.
"It's no longer enough for government to go on a diet. Government needs to hit the gym, and hit it hard," he said in prepared remarks.
Pawlenty is calling for an overhaul of the nation's complicated tax code, which he called a "9,000-page monstrosity." His plan would simplify the individual tax system into three tiers, and cut taxes on businesses to 15 percent. He also suggested privatizing some government services, such as mail distribution, printing and Amtrak.
Meanwhile, senior Obama political adviser David Axelrod said at an unrelated stop in Chicago that Pawlenty left his own state with a deficit but now wants to counsel the rest of the country on financial matters. Axelrod talked to reporters Tuesday after attending a fundraiser for the Chicago facility for the developmentally disabled where his adult daughter lives.
Axelrod called Pawlenty's visit to Chicago "good stage craft." He says Pawlenty wants to "replay" the same formula that got the country into a financial jam.