Pawlenty: My red-hot smoking wife

Pawlenty hopes to challenge President Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, and the speech, before a crowd of GOP heavyweights in Des Moines, Iowa, was viewed as his chance to impress important, early-caucus-voting Iowans.

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But you wouldn’t have guessed that from his punch lines. After entering the room to the strains of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s anti-elitist anthem “Fortunate Son,” the governor told a story about standing in the bathroom with his wife, Mary, and looking at himself in the mirror. “I mean, look at me!” he told her, “my hairline is receding, I’m flabby, and I’ve got these love handles hanging over my belt.”

He pleaded with her, “Is there anything you could tell me that could make me feel better about this?”

“Yes,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with your eyesight.” (Ouch!)

Later in the speech, Pawlenty compared himself to Ricky Bobby, the coarse, clumsy NASCAR driver played by Will Ferrell in the comedy “Talladega Nights.” In one scene, Bobby prays to God for Doritos and Taco Bell before thanking the Lord for his “red hot smoking wife.” “I’m like the Talladega guy,” said Pawlenty. “because I want to thank the Lord for my smoking-hot wife.”

Pawlenty also joked that he’s a “shoot and release” hunter (on account of his bad aim), and that the deficit will get bigger than “Chris Matthews’s man-crush on Obama.”