The New York Times has a major profile of Tim Pawlenty in today’s paper, arguing that Pawlenty has started to position himself as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, an ironic position given Romney’s status in the late 2008 race as the conservative alternative to John McCain. As part of their analysis of Pawlenty’s new, aggressive campaigning, they report that Pawlenty has been affecting a “southern drawl,” dropping Gs and using “ain’t”, based on a blog report from Iowa. However, New York Magazine takes issue with their reporting and demonstrates that the NYT didn’t do much investigatin’ and reportin’ on its claim.
First, here’s the passage from the NYT:
At a faith forum last week in Iowa, he displayed vigor. But the next day at the Statehouse, the talk among several Republicans was that it seemed he had suddenly developed a Southern accent as he tried connecting to voters by speaking louder and with more energy.
The political blog of Radio Iowa heard it too and noted, “Pawlenty seems to be adopting a Southern accent as he talks about his record as governor.” As he spoke of the country’s challenges, he dropped the letter G, saying: “It ain’t gonna be easy. This is about plowin’ ahead and gettin’ the job done.”
NYM finds the speech and the passage in question, and while Pawlenty dropped a couple of Gs, he clearly says getting:
Frankly, we haven’t heard Pawlenty speak enough to know if the folksy accent he exhibited in the speech was uncommon for him. But we’re at least pretty sure that we hear Pawlenty say getting, not gettin’, in the line plucked out by the Times. Watch the clip and determine for yourself whether the Times is nitpickin’.
Seems as though the Gray Lady ain’t checkin’ sources well these here days, huh?
As for a Southern drawl, well, I’m hearing more Fargo than Nawlins in Pawlenty’s speech, but your mileage may vary on that point. We criticized the Ivy League-educated Barack Obama for dropping his Gs and Hillary Clinton for affecting an actual Southern drawl on the campaign trail, so it’s hardly unfair to note the dropped Gs and the “ain’t” for Pawlenty. However, people drop their Gs in other places than the South, including up here in Minnesota, as well as say “ain’t” pretty much across the country (and for good reason, as it fills a specific need for a contraction for a first-person negative present tense for the verb to be, but don’t get me started on that esoteric debate).
The question is whether it’s authentic or an affectation for Pawlenty. I’ve heard him speak often, both in groups and in conversation, and yes, he drops his Gs occasionally as most people do. It’s probably not a good idea on the stump in any case, though, especially since Pawlenty already has the middle-class credibility working for him in this campaign. But it’s more important for newspapers to check the record before offering a transcript like the Times does here, and kudos to New York Magazine for doing the work that the Paper of Record’s layers of fact-checkers and editors ain’t doin’.