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Pawlenty Can Compete with Obama but He Must Get Nomination First

While his name does not bring instant excitement, Tim Pawlenty's assets and lack of baggage make him a serious candidate.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 5/23/2011, 6:44 PM / Last Update: 5/23/2011, 11:48 PM

Today former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is going to formally announce that he is a candidate for the presidency and will seek the nomination of the Republican Party. In view of the fact that running for the presidency is a full-time job, it is advantageous to be a former governor-- ask Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton. It is also a long-distance run, as another Minnesotan, the Democrats' 1984 nominee Walter Mondale said: It's hard to live with the idea that every night you go to sleep in another motel.

Tim Pawlenty is an evangelist, having converted from Catholicism and this will not hurt him with the Republican Party's religious base. He has been happily married to the woman that he met in law school. But Pawlenty is fortunate that Mike Huckabee, who would've been the first choice of that segment, declared himself a non-candidate.

Pawlenty was a competent governor of Minnesota, but again he is fortunate that Mitch Daniels of Indiana also declared that he would not run and that Chris Christie of New Jersey jokingly claims that he would contemplate suicide if it could convince reporters that he had no intention of running.

He can run as a fiscal conservative but cannot pose as the champion of the movement or as a budget guru like Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, whom some Republicans would like to draft. Ryan has not shown himself amenable to such an offer and has even turned down the opportunity of running for the Senate in Wisconsin.

if George Washington was: first in war first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen, Pawlenty is 2nd amongst evangelicals, 2nd amongst governors and former governors and 2nd amongst fiscal conservatives. This would not be a problem if he placed 2nd amongst Republican candidates with deep pockets.

In Mitt Romney and John Huntsman, Pawlenty confronts independently wealthy candidates.  American politics is littered with candidates whose wealth did not decide the issue, but cash is definitely a strategic consideration. Pawlenty will have to come out and win early. Obviously this means Iowa and its caucuses. Additionally he has to perform credibly in New Hampshire, where Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, is a household word compared to Pawlenty. Only by scoring early and winning can he attract the financial support that will enable him to go the distance.

If he can go the distance, he may prove to be a viable candidate. Of the declared Republican candidates, he has no glaring weakness, as let us say Newt Gingrich. His Republican colleagues in Minnesota are all well-disposed to him and his selection to head the National Governors' Conference in 2007 also speaks well of his political skilly. He will not alienate any important constituency in the Republican Party, but at this moment he does not generate the excitement and buzz. This is a pity because he stacks up well against Obama.

Pawlenty is from a blue collar Midwestern family. This is Barack Obama was Achilles' heel. Already in the primary run against Hillary Clinton in states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania states that he eventually carried against John McCain Obama showed weakness. The Midwest in a close presidential election will be the battleground. Everybody knows about Ohio from the Bush elections but the Republican victory in Pennsylvania in the 2010 midterm elections means that Pennsylvania is in play and if Obama lost both Ohio and Pennsylvania his path to reelection narrows appreciably.

Pawlenty has proven himself as a politician who could win in a blue, traditionally Democratic state. The 2010 elections were decided by adding independents to a solid Republican base. Pawlenti is capable of replicating this on a national level. Also useful is his age – a year older than Barack Obama, meaning that as opposed to Obama versus McCain, the age issue will be off the table.

For sports fans he was a hockey player in high school and this means he can stack up against America's basketball playing president.