Thursday, March 17, 2011

The curious case of Tim Pawlenty

Tim Pawlenty finds himself in an interesting place right now, a place where few have managed to emerge victorious. The pundacricy loves him, but the voters don't know who he is, and the one's who do know who he is don't really like him that much.

For instance, Larry Sabato, the political Svengali at the University of Virginia, tells us:

Pawlenty has a strong team. It is well respected and in some respects envied by the other candidates. It's really one of his hidden advantages. He's not a front-runner. He's relatively unknown. But because of his team he's well positioned. He could easily become one of the finalists for the Republican nomination.

The linked article mentions many of the members of his team, some coming from Bush's political team but others coming from Mitt Romney's failed campaign. One problem, if he has such a great team, how do you explain this?

After going on for some length about how impressive everyone agree's Tim Pawlenty's team is the article ends with:

Ultimately the candidate and not the team behind him will be judged by the voters. But staff is critical too and observers agree Pawlenty is making good choices.

Of course the voters are the ones who will decide things, and what do voters think of Tim Pawlenty?

[Pawlenty's] name recognition has improved from 36% to 48% in the last 15 months. The bad news for him is that his favorability has just gone from 12% to 15% while his unfavorabilty has gone from 24% to 33%.

Ouch. But it gets worse:

And here's a fact that doesn't bode well for Pawlenty as he becomes better known. With voters who have no opinion about him, he trails Obama only 38-31. With voters who do feel like they know enough about him to have an opinion he trails the President 58-36.

The more voters find out about Tim Pawlenty the less they like him. But despite his bad polling numbers he is currently the second highest traded GOP Presidential Candidate (behind Mittens) on Intrade.

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This is the dilemma that Tim Pawlenty finds himself in; many of the supposedly learned people of politics agree he is "on the rise" and "one to watch for," yet the polling says he is dead in the water. His only weakness, we are told, is a lack of name ID, yet when voters find out about him their response is "meh."

Is there anyone out there who can shed some light on this for us?

Mr. Palwenty is in danger of becoming the Gregg Jefferies of politics: the perpetual prospect who never blossoms into more than a league-average politician. And — although there are a few exceptions — league-average politicians do not usually become their party’s Presidential nominees.

The thing that Pawlenty has going for him is that the entire GOP field is populated with "league-averge" politicians. It was against many of these same politicians that "dead in the water" John McCain resurrected his campaign and won the GOP nomination. But John McCain, unlike Tim Pawlenty, had a known, established, political brand. What does Tim Pawlenty have other than that fake accent?

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