Tim Pawlenty's speech on March 7 to the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition suprised many observers, and not entirely in a good way. Dana Milbank, "With Pawlenty's Iowa speech, a side of syrup", Washington Post 3/9/2011, wrote
… Pawlenty is campaigning as if he's some sort of Southern preacher. At the Faith & Freedom event, he was dropping g's all over the place, using "ain't" instead of "isn't," and adding a syrup to his vowels not indigenous to Minnesota. He didn't utter the word "jobs," made only passing reference to economic woes, and instead gave the assembled religious conservatives a fiery speech about God, gays and gynecology.
Or Jeff Zeleny, "Campaigning as All Things to All Republicans", NYT 3/12/2011
The knock on Mr. Pawlenty, according to conversations with voters, is that his speeches sound sincere but do not always sizzle. 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.”
Similar commentary has included Michael Crowley, "Southern Fried Pawlenty", Time Magazine 3/14/2011, and Mark Zdechlik, "Pawlenty's drawl takes Minnesotans by surprise", Minnesota Public Radio 3/16/2011.
What Mr. Pawlenty actually said was
Valley Forge wasn't easy,
settling the west wasn't easy,
winning World War Two wasn't easy, goin' to the moon wasn't easy –
this ain't about easy.
This is about rollin' up our sleeves,
plowin' ahead and getting the job done.
The quoted phrase has a word-level edit distance of about 8 from the corresponding (bold face) stretch of 18 words, so we have the usual journalistic word error rate of about 8/18 = 44%. Dan Amira at New York Magazine noticed the mistaken transcription of getting ("Did the Times Drop Tim Pawlenty’s G for Him?", 3/14/2011), though not the rest of the transcriptional mistakes:
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'.
Still, Zeleny was right about one of the two instances of g-dropping that he cites, which is not bad by the standards of linguistic commentary we expect from the mass media; and Pawlenty did drop a couple of other g's (goin' to the moon, rollin' up our sleeves) in the part that wasn't quoted, while giving us three velar nasals in other gerund-participles (settling the west, winning World War Two, getting the job done) for a "g-dropping" rate of 50% in this passage.
I need to note in passing that despite the conventional name "g-dropping", none of the pronunciations at stake actually involves either any g's nor any dropping of any segments at all. Rather, what's at issue is the difference between a velar nasal (conventionally written as -ing) and a coronal nasal (conventionally written as -in'). These two pronunciations have been in variation for several hundred years all over the English-speaking world — including in Minnesota!
I did a quick search for "Minnesota" on YouTube, and the first clip I checked was "My Favorite Minnesota – Camping – Campsites", narrated by Paul Sundberg, a park ranger who seems to be a native of the state. The first gerund-participle in his narration occurs about 42 seconds into the clip:
And uh we've taken her many times after that
and both my son and daughter have so many fond memories
of Boundaries Waters Canoe Area
growin' up in state parks
(For more detail about "g-dropping" in general, see "The internet pilgrim's guide to g-dropping", LL 5/10/2004. And for some thoughts about what g-dropping means in political discourse, see "Emphathetic in'", LL 10/18/2008; "Palin's tactical g-lessness", LL 10/18/2011; and also Julie Sedivy, "The language of power in the anti-prestige age", Psychology Today 3/2/2011.)
Of course, Pawlenty's possible "southern accent" has other aspects as well. Bob Collins at Minnesota Public Radio ("The southernization of Tim Pawlenty", 3/14/2011) gives some fairly persuasive examples of other putative changes, giving "old Pawlenty" and "new Pawlenty" version of several words and phrases, including these two versions of my time:
(Note that Firefox apparently won't play the audio clips in Bob Collins' story — try Chrome instead.)
Here's a YouTube video of Mr. Pawlenty's Iowa speech as a whole: