I said last week that the Ames Straw Poll is probably going to be make-or-break for Tim Pawlenty. Jeff Zeleny's report in tomorrow's New York Times suggests that this is settling into conventional wisdom:
AMES, Iowa - Tim Pawlenty was first in line to enter the Republican presidential race. He is now fighting to avoid becoming the earliest major candidate to be shown the door...
The voting will not open for at least six months, but Mr. Pawlenty knows that his performance at the Iowa Straw Poll on Aug. 13 - fair or not - will help determine whether his candidacy accelerates or lands in the annals of Republican presidential hopefuls like Elizabeth Dole, Lamar Alexander and Dan Quayle whose campaigns were extinguished here...
Mitt Romney, who won the event four years ago in his first bid for the White House, decided to skip the straw poll this year. So Mr. Pawlenty is largely replicating Mr. Romney's 2007 strategy by building a sophisticated turnout operation, recruiting supporters to spend the day in Ames and to cast their ballots during a daylong carnival.
He asked voters to treat the straw poll with as much seriousness as Election Day.
Zeleny's report notes that Michele Bachmann is also looking to make a play in Ames. It doesn't mention Herman Cain, but if Cain can recover from his sudden staff turnover he may also be a factor at Ames, particularly if FairTax supporters turn out for Cain the way they did for Mike Huckabee in 2007.
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