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.