The Spectacle Blog

Pawlenty’s Problem

By on 5.27.11 | 2:43PM

There is a very plausible theoretical case for Tim Pawlenty running a strong campaign for, and perhaps even winning, the Republican presidential nomination. As a successful, two-term blue state governor with an evangelical faith and relatively little liberal baggage, Pawlenty can run to the right of Mitt Romney in the primaries without compromising his electability in the general. Pawlenty has few negatives and isn't really unacceptable to anybody, except conservatives who believe past support for cap and trade is an unpardonable sin -- a group smaller in the number than those who believe past support for abortion is unforgivable.

But there was also always a real risk for Pawlenty: he might lack the star power of a Romney or Sarah Palin and at the same time be too mild-mannered for conservatives looking for a stronger alternative. Two national polls released this week show why. Gallup found Romney at 17  percent, Palin at 15 percent, Ron Paul at 10 percent, Newt Gingrich at 9 percent, and Herman Cain at 8 percent. Only after that do we get to Pawlenty at 6 percent. Fellow Minnesotan Michele Bachmann is nipping at Pawlenty's heels at 5 percent.

Exclude Palin and Romney improves to 19 percent, Paul and Gingrich to 12 percent, and Cain stays at 8 percent. Pawlenty improves to 7 percent, but so does Bachmann. In both scenarios, the frontrunner(s) and several candidates to Pawlenty's right outperform the former governor.

Then there is today's CNN poll, which is making news because -- shades of 2007! -- it includes Rudy Giuliani and the former New York mayor finishes first. Thus it's Giuliani at 16 percent, Romney at 15 percent, Palin at 13 percent, Paul at 12 percent, Cain at 10 percent, Gingrich at 8 percent, Bachmann at 7 percent, and then finally Pawlenty at 5 percent.

Exclude Rudy and the results don't get  better for Pawlenty. Then it's Romney at 19 percent, Palin at 15 percent, Paul at 13 percent, Cain and Gingrich at 11 percent, Bachmann at 7 percent, and Pawlenty still stuck at 5 percent. Even without Palin or Giuliani, Pawlenty remains at 5 percent, trailing Romney (21 percent), Paul (15 percent), Cain (13 percent), Gingrich (12 percent), and Bachmann (9 percent). Despite the conventional wisdom that Pawlenty is "everyone's second choice," only 6 percent of respondents actually list him as their second choice.

Obviously, it's early and national polls are of limited value in assessing a primary campaign. Pawlenty's name recognition is sure to rise and his announcement speech was covered favorably in the conservative press. He even got a nice plug from Rush Limbaugh. But the numbers show how Pawlenty could get lost in the pack, especially when you consider that Herman Cain has come out of nowhere to get respectable poll numbers despite being taken much less seriously by the media, mainstream and conservative alike.

Send to Kindle

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article

More Articles From W. James Antle III