Pawlenty's Pastor: An Evangelical Powerbroker

| Tue Mar. 22, 2011 11:59 AM EDT

As you've probably heard, former GOP Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty launched his presidential exploratory committee yesterday, with a characteristically flashy announcement video. To date, much of his national political exposure has focused more on his regular-guy credentials—he likes to fish and play hockey, and fancies himself as a "Sam's Club Republican" (as opposed to the country club sort). What tends to get overlooked, but probably shouldn't, is his faith. Here's Rose French:

"Pawlenty appeals to a younger evangelical, one who cares about issues beyond abortion and same-sex marriage like...the environment,'' Lindsey said. "He's seen as a fresher face. He's not a brash or harsh evangelical. He seems to embody this...authentic Christian faith. Evangelicals, if anything, have become well-trained on picking up on religious phonies."

To wit: Pawlenty's pastor at Minnesota's Wooddale Church is Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals and a member of President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Anderson's no lefty—he's an author of the Manhattan Declaration, which called on Christian pastors to oppose abortion and same-sex marriage—but he's also pushed for amnesty for undocumented residents and supported greenhouse gas restrictions.

Going forward, this could be an asset for Pawlenty—the ability to speak sincerely to the party's conservative Christian base, without compromising his ordinary-guy image by coming off as a culture warrior. Leave that to Rick Santorum.