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August 4, 2011

The Picture from Iowa, 2012: Pawlenty Shooting Blanks; Bachmann Certainly Isn’t

This is the third in our series, The Picture from Iowa, 2012, based on photos and on-the-ground conversations with photographer Brendan Hoffman leading up to the Ames Straw Poll, combined with analysis by The Bag.

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Remember how Pawlenty declined to attack Romney at the first GOP debate last month after spending the whole previous week referring to his health plan as “ObamneyCare”? Because the look-and-feel of T-Paw’s campaign has been so “amateur hour,” it’s hard to tell whether this photo-op he did at a gun range was simply poor media planning, or revealed the “punch pulling” nature he displayed last month, leading to questions whether T-Paw has the kind of “personal firepower” to win the nomination.

As Brendan reports, the event at the firing range was clearly a photo-op as photographers were invited and more professionals with cameras were present than citizens. Strangely though, the photographers were made to shoot the candidate from afar, were given no opportunity for a close-up of Pawlenty with a gun, and no way to even photograph him head-on. Instead, Pawlenty picked up the gun, fired off 4-5 quick rounds, put it right down again and he was done, the photographers left to catch him all sweaty afterwards.

Talking to Brendan, what is blindingly clear in Iowa is the contrast in PR chops between Pawlenty and Bachmann. While Team Pawlenty fumbles along using fishing line to hang the same old banner on some horrible wall or in between two windows so the light behind it is completely uneven, Bachmann’s location scouting and event staging, down to the sound and the lighting, is worthy of, well, a presidential campaign in the stretch run.

By the way, one might say that Pawlenty deserves points for being so unscripted. I’d love to agree, but our marketing culture being what it is, I’m afraid being “unpackaged” these days requires an even slicker package. And if you have any doubts about that, just click around the White House Flickr site.

PHOTOGRAPHS by Brendan Hoffman/Prime Collective.  Campaign Tumblr Site.

Follow all the posts in this series at: The Picture from Iowa, 2012.

(photo 1 & 2: Republican presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty campaigns on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 in Madrid, IA. photo 3: Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann campaigns at Palmer’s Deli on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 in West Des Moines, IA.)

About the Photographer

Brendan Hoffman

Brendan Hoffman (b. Albany, NY, 1980) is a photographer based in Washington, DC. He began his career in 2007 after working at a desk for several years in the non-profit sector. He divides his time between client and personal work. Assignments often involve covering news and politics for publications such as TIME magazine or the New York Times. His personal projects reflect his interest in the ways in which economic and political structures shape modern society. His ongoing project “Stand the Middle Ground” is an exploration of contemporary middle class America in the context of free trade and the decline of manufacturing in a small Iowa town. Brendan has received awards for his photography from Pictures of the Year International, the White House News Photographers Association, and other organizations. He has worked in a variety of countries for both editorial and NGO clients, and is a co-founder of Prime. See more of Brendan's work for BagNews here.

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