Former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey, a Texas Republican who now heads the conservative activist group FreedomWorks, has been saying favorable-ish things about Gov. Tim Pawlenty's 2012 chances, mostly revolving around Pawlenty's blank-slate status.

Hot Dish's question: How long can Minnesota's two-term governor, who has held elected office since 1993, work the fresh face angle?

Here was Armey, below, on Pawlenty's national prospects in December:

"I think there are people vying and becoming emergent as who can be the most effective voice. My own view is that Pawlenty is the person standing on the safest ground. He has no major disappointments behind him. He has the chance to create a fresh new public understanding of who he is and what he stands for. Right now you have to put him there."

In January, Armey said Pawlenty was a fresh face and could fit the mold of what the conservative base is looking for.

Armey's latest, to U.S. News and World Report: "I've had my eye on [Minnesota Gov. Tim] Pawlenty because Pawlenty has the opportunity to be a blank slate."


Springtime is porktime

Spring is coming to the nation's capital, which means it's time to start thinking about pork.

Among those House members who still partake (Minnesota Republicans John Kline and Michele Bachmann swore off a few years ago), at least one has found a novel way to get public buy-in for pet projects back home.

Second-term Democrat Tim Walz, right, says he is the first member of Congress to solicit public comment on earmark requests before a March 19 deadline to submit them to the House Appropriations Committee.

His list of 99 earmark applications can be viewed and commented on at his website, Constituents should weigh in by close of business Thursday if they want their views to be considered. Since Friday, when judging opened, almost 400 people have done so.

Walz calls the process "open, accountable and transparent." It's either seek earmarks, he argues, or watch the money be spent by "federal bureaucrats in Washington."


Klobuchar to fill big shoes

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, enjoying a reputation as one of Washington's most personable pols, has scored one of the most coveted speaking roles in the Democratic universe: keynoting the annual black-tie Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Richmond, Va., later this month.

To get a sense for how big this dinner is, consider the last three speakers: Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bill Clinton.

Not bad company for a 49-year-old freshman senator from Plymouth, Minn., with a scant national profile. At first blush, it would seem that she would be overshadowed by months of national media attention paid to the more famous junior senator and ex-comic from Minnesota.

But while fellow DFLer Al Franken has labored to keep his head down, Klobuchar has been busy reprising Hubert Humphrey's Happy Warrior image.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, whose state Democratic party hosts the March 20 event, called her "one of the funniest people in the Senate."


Whose state senator?

Former Republican state Sen. Sean Nienow, who lost his seat to DFL Sen. Rick Olseen in 2006, wants to get back to the Capitol.

"Some people think I'm crazy ...but it's a calling," said Nienow, right.

Nienow's campaign website refers to him as "State Senator Sean Nienow" and features a red and white logo that reads "Your State Senator."

Local DFLers object.

"Make no mistake about it, Nienow is not our state senator and has not been for over three years," local DFL party chairs wrote in a letter to the Isanti-Chisago County Star last month.