What Happened to Tim Pawlenty?

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty began campaigning for the Republican nomination for President as soon as the 2008 race ended with Barack Obama victorious. T-Paw was thought to be a strong potential candidate, a favorite among the Republican establishment as a popular politician from an important midwestern state.

So what happened? How did Pawlenty go from rising star to record-setter (as the fastest Presidential candidate to end a campaign following the Ames straw poll). Our friends at “The Fix” think Pawlenty’s failures were fundamentally about being the wrong type of candidate at the wrong time:

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty’s decision to drop out of the presidential race on Sunday – nearly six months before the first votes are set to be cast in the 2012 contest – was the result of a fundamental misreading of the Republican primary electorate and a failure to properly manage the expectations game.

Pawlenty’s presidential candidacy was an open secret in Republican political circles long before he made it official in late May. His recruitment of highlyprized staff talent earned him buzz in the early months of 2011 as he worked to emerge as the Republican alternative to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

But, problems soon became apparent.

Pawlenty’s demeanor – he was the definition of “Minnesota Nice” – didn’t fit with an electorate who wanted confrontation with President Obama at all costs. Pawlenty watched as Rep. Michele Bacmann soared past him in the race – channeling the anger of voters who saw compromise in any form as capitulation.

A stroll around the Ames Straw Poll on Saturday showed just how badly Pawlenty had miscalculated what the electorate was looking for.

Pawlenty wasn’t just boring — he was either unwilling or unable to take the shots at frontrunner Mitt Romney that he needed in order to get his own piece of the spotlight while casting himself as a real alternative to the former Massachusetts Governor. At the same time, he tried attacking Rep. Michele Bachmann, an unwise decision given her army of vociferous supporters (and T-Paw’s lack thereof). Pawlenty’s indecision on the type of candidate he wanted, or needed, to become was reflected in his fundraising; as Politico reports, his campaign was running on fumes:

Pawlenty was unable to raise a significant amount of money and spent much of what he did bring in on TV and radio in the lead-up to Ames. Pawlenty had originally hoped to emerge as the chief alternative to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, but he found himself pinned down in Iowa over the past six weeks trying to fend off the surging Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann…

…Pawlenty’s campaign initially signaled on Saturday night that he would try to move forward, but with his third-place finish here and with Texas Gov. Rick Perry getting in the race, it became clear to Pawlenty that he’d have trouble financing a campaign.

Pawlenty’s money issues are so dire, according to one campaign source, that he is going to have difficulty making payroll this week and may have to delay some payments.

So where does Pawlenty’s exit leave the Republican field? His endorsement is considered valuable, but he says he will definitely not be a candidate for Vice President. In the short term, his departure may hurt Romney more than his presence in the race ever did, because it makes Iowa a two-person battle between Bachmann and Texas Governor Rick Perry (Romney thus far has decided not to compete in the land of corn). Regardless of the outcome, this is an interesting moment in the 2012 race because it’s the first departure by a legitimate contender.  

Romney Should Heed Clinton’s Fate On Inevitability

Interesting numbers in a new poll from Zogby released late yesterday. According to the results, Republican voters don’t really want Mitt Romney as their Presidential nominee…even though they seem convinced that he’ll be the guy:

Michele Bachmann continues to lead the field of announced Presidential candidates among Republican primary voters, but Rick Perry would be the top choice if he entered the race.

Mitt Romney trails both Bachmann and Herman Cain among announced candidates and falls even further back when Perry and Chris Christie are included. However, he continues to be seen by GOP voters as most likely to be the nominee. [Pols emphasis]

This is an interesting conundrum for Republicans. As we’ve said time and again in this space, most high-dollar donors give money to the candidates that they think are the most likely to win; it’s only human nature to want to back the winning horse. Romney thus far has raised the most money among GOP contenders, and by this logic, he should continue to bring in more cash than anyone else. Yet Romney’s poll numbers consistently show that Republicans are apathetic towards his candidacy, so how long will he be able to hold enough interest while maintaining his aura of inevitability?

In early 2007, a somewhat similar dynamic played out for Democrats with Hillary Clinton, who was widely thought to be the inevitable Democratic nominee for President. Clinton, of course, was not able to maintain that early momentum into Iowa in 2008. With just five months until Republicans roll into Iowa for their Presidential battle, Rep. Michele Bachmann appears to be more popular in Cornville than Romney…with Texas Governor Rick Perry looming large.

What say you, Polsters? Will Romney be able to hold onto his aura of inevitability? Vote after the jump?

Will Romney Still Be Viewed as the GOP Frontrunner by January?

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Michelle Bachmann, Iowa Frontrunner

From our friends at “The Fix“:

he new Des Moines Register poll, which was released late Saturday night, tells the story.

Bachmann is in a statistical dead heat with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney – she takes 22 percent to his 23 percent. Businessman Herman Cain is the only other candidate to receive double-digit support (10 percent.)

While the topline numbers are impressive for Bachmann, they reveal only some of her Iowa strength.

The other piece of it comes from the passion that the Minnesota Republican engenders in her supporters. In the Register poll, 65 percent said they had a favorable impression of Bachmann, with 31 percent saying they felt very favorably toward her. (Just 12 percent felt unfavorably about Bachmann.)

Winners and Losers from GOP Presidential Debate

Our friends at “The Fix” break down the Winners and Losers from the GOP Presidential debate last night in New Hampshire. Some of the more notable tidbits:


Michele Bachmann: For viewers who had never heard of the Minnesota Congresswoman before tonight, she put on quite a show. For the first 45 minutes of the debate, Bachmann dominated the stage with quotable lines galore and an audience hanging on her every word. She faded somewhat in the middle of the debate – particularly with her confusing answer on whether she supports a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage – but rallied in the closing moments. What Bachmann proved tonight? She’s ready for primetime.

Mitt Romney: Romney came into the debate as the frontrunner in New Hampshire and nationally and he did nothing in the 120 minutes on stage at Saint Anselm College to change that. Romney was serious and well informed – in a word: presidential. His debate experience from 2008 clearly paid off as he stayed focused on President Obama and the economy to the exclusion of almost everything else. Romney also benefited from the fact that none of his rivals seemed to have the stomach to attack him directly. And, health care was – at best – a tangential topic. All in all a very good night for Romney…


Tim Pawlenty: Pawlenty came into the debate with perhaps the biggest challenge: to prove that the insider buzz he has been generating of late could be translated to a public forum. He had moments where he shined – his answer on the separation of church and state was outstanding – but by and large he came across as a bit over-programmed. Pawlenty also seemed to pass on a golden opportunity to prove his “tell the truth” credentials when King asked him about his criticism of Romney’s health care plan. Pawlenty demurred even though 36 hours before he had described the law as “Obamneycare”. Strange.

Herman Cain: After winning the first debate of the year in South Carolina, expectations were high for the Georgia businessman. And for the first hour (or so) of the debate, he held his own. But, Cain’s answer on whether he would have a Muslim in his Cabinet was confusing at best and offensive at worst and will be, without question, the memorable moment of the debate for him. And that’s not a good memory.

Since many of you probably didn’t get around to watching last night’s debate, we’ve got a broader question for you after the jump. Which GOP Presidential candidate has most (surprisingly) impressed you lately? In other words, who has made you take notice — for good reasons — in recent weeks?  

Which GOP Presidential Candidate Has Most Impressed You?

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Who Will be the Republican Presidential Nominee?

Republican Rick Santorum announced that he will formally “announce” his bid for President on June 6, and reports yesterday say that Michelle Bachmann will roll out her campaign in Iowa next month. Meanwhile, some polls continue to show that the Republican frontrunner could be former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain.

With all of that in mind, it’s time again for the Colorado Pols Republican Presidential Poll. As always, we want to know what you think will happen — not your preference. If you had to bet the deed to your house, how would you bet on the GOP Presidential field? (Click here for previous results)

Who Will be the Republican Nominee for President in 2012?

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Wait, Wait, Wait…Herman Cain???

According to a new poll from Zogby, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain (yes, that Herman Cain) has emerged as one of the top two choices for the Republican nominee for President.

Seriously. Here’s the odd news:

Herman Cain trails only Chris Christie as the top choice among Republican primary voters in the race for the 2012 Presidential nomination. Mitt Romney ranks fourth, but voters see him as the most likely nominee by a wide margin over the rest of a 13-person field.

One-half of GOP voters say they would never vote for Donald Trump, and more than 30% say they would never vote for Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee or Ron Paul.

These results are from an IBOPE Zogby interactive poll of 1,377 Republican primary voters conducted from May 6-9.

This can’t be written off as a complete outlier, either, because the high negatives for Donald Trump, Sarah Palin and friends is consistent with other polls of late.

We’ve said before that it’s going to be extremely tough for Republicans to defeat President Obama in 2012, but if the GOP ends up with Herman freakin’ Cain as their nominee, we might as well just skip the election and jump straight to Obama’s second term.  

Colorado Republicans Love Them Some Bachmann

Colorado Republicans held their “Centennial Dinner” last weekend, which included a straw poll on the GOP candidates for President. As our pals at The Colorado Statesman report:

Unsurprisingly, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney – who won the 2008 Colorado caucuses with 59 percent of the vote over John McCain’s 19 percent in a nonbinding preference poll – led with 76 votes, twice the tally of his nearest competitor, though he only garnered roughly one-fourth of the total votes. Next in line was Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, a conservative lightning rod who has been making noise about a possible presidential bid in recent weeks, with 38 votes. Another half-dozen candidates bunched up with similar votes.

We’re not going to pretend that there is anything particularly meaningful about a straw poll conducted among party faithful, but the results are certainly interesting. Here’s the Top Ten from the “Centennial Dinner” Straw Poll:

1. Mitt Romney – 76 votes

2. Michele Bachmann – 38

3. Tim Pawlenty – 34

4. Mitch Daniels – 27

5. Chris Christie – 26

(tie) Donald Trump – 26

7. Sarah Palin – 20

8. Newt Gingrich – 19

9. Herman Cain – 14

10. Mike Huckabee – 12

It’s a little surprising to us that Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann received so many votes. Sure, she’s a darling of the Tea Party, but we’re talking about a vote for President here. Bachmann is relatively unknown outside of Tea Party circles, and you’d be hard-pressed to make a logical case that Bachmann stands a better chance at defeating President Obama than just about anyone else on that list (sorry, Herman Cain). The best you can say about Bachmann is that she’s a poor man’s (or is it “poor woman’s”) Sarah Palin, whose approval ratings are dropping faster than a missile in Libya.  

Who Will be the Republican Presidential Nominee?

On Monday our friends at “The Fix” had an interesting story about the lack of a frontrunner in the Republican field for President is an historic anomaly:

In the ten contested Republican presidential primary races between 1952 and 2008 — nine open seat fights and the 1976 face-off between President Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan — Gallup polling has always shown a clear frontrunner by this time.

And, in eight of those ten contests, the polling frontrunner at that moment went on to be the party’s presidential nominee. (The exceptions: Barry Goldwater trailed Richard Nixon at this point in the 1964 election and John McCain trailed Rudy Giuliani at this point in the 2008 election.)

Of the eight frontrunners in Gallup polling who went on to win the nomination, none took less than 31 percent in Gallup’s hypothetical primary ballots. (That was Reagan, again, in 1980.) The average for the eight frontrunners was just over 40 percent of the vote — well more than double the amount of support that Huckabee, Romney or Palin each received in the latest Gallup numbers on the race.

With that in mind, it’s time for another Colorado Pols poll! As always, we want to know what you think will happen — not your preference. If you had to bet the deed to your house, how would you bet on the GOP Presidential field?

Click after the jump to vote…

Who Will be the Republican Nominee for President in 2012?

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