The latest Des Moines Register poll has raised questions about whether former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is a top-tier candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. In Iowa Pawlenty, stuck at 6 percent, trails Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, and Newt Gingrich. His lead over Rick Santorum is well within the margin of error. Pawlenty is also expected to have a disappointing fundraising haul.
The question is whether this fixable or the field has shaped up in such a way as to make it difficult for Pawlenty to break out of the pack. Pawlenty uses the example of Mike Huckabee to argue he can turn things around. A senior Pawlenty adviser told the Des Moines Register, “Sunday’s poll numbers and others like it are a flashback to four years ago, when Mike Huckabee was in a similar position.” In May 2007, Huckabee was at 4 percent while Romney was leading with 30 percent. Huckabee beat Romney in the caucuses.
Huckabee had to deal with Fred Thompson siphoning votes from his right, having already dispatched Sam Brownback. Pawlenty needs to convicingly outdistance Santorum and then leapfrog Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, and Paul (Romney’s numbers may fade on their own since he’s bypassing the caucuses). So Huckabee is indeed the model for Pawlenty, but he has a long way to go.