Tim Pawlenty gave the Daily Show audience what it wants from politician interview — a blend of policy and humor that was entertaining enough that Stewart recorded another 20 minutes of Pawlenty after filming the regular show. Pawlenty jokes about not having “a big schtick” in regards to his personal notoriety on the national political scene or a billion dollars to replace it, but that he planned to work hard to make his views known. In the second part of the interview, Pawlenty also talks about the “silent coup” of the public-sector unions grasping the reins of government. The Star Tribune report underscores Pawlenty’s success in broadening his reach:

Stewart pressed Pawlenty on his presidential ambitions, his views on the role of government and why he vetoed Minnesota’s bong water bill during an extended interview that was both funny and substantive. Pawlenty played it straight most of the time, letting Stewart crack the majority of the jokes, but he picked his spots and got Stewart’s young, liberal audience to laugh at several points.

“It was fun, and this is a chance to reach an audience that’s young,” Pawlenty told the Star Tribune after his appearance Thursday. “We get to talk some issues, have some fun and reach an audience that normally doesn’t pay that much attention.”

Pawlenty’s appearance on “The Daily Show” Thursday, a ritual among presidential hopefuls, was the governor’s latest attempt to raise his national profile as he gears up for a possible 2012 presidential run. While Pawlenty is still polling in single digits among potential GOP candidates, going toe-to-toe with political satirists like Stewart can help him carve out a unique place in the GOP as a fresh face who could siphon away younger voters from President Obama.

Many audience members who attended the taping said that Pawlenty came off well and was likeable, even if they disagreed with his politics. …

Sarah Depasque, 26, who came from Madison, N.J., to watch the show, said she was excited to see Pawlenty because she enjoyed watching Stewart interview Republicans.

“I always have the respect of conservative politicians who come on ‘The Daily Show,’ because they know they might get contentious questions,” she said. “If you’re coming on the show, I know you’re at least interested in my vote. At least you’re trying to make the effort.”

He even joked about his recent veto of a bill that would have removed bong water from a list of controlled substances in Minnesota, certainly not an action with which viewers of the Daily Show would have much sympathy. More seriously, Pawlenty noted that government does have a role in American life, but within its limits, and only when it’s effective. Better to allow authority and responsibility to devolve to state and local government, where people can have more control over the choices made in spending and revenue.

Will this help Pawlenty get more exposure and strength as a viable national candidate? I’d say it didn’t hurt to play outside the home field.