Did Pawlenty quit too soon?

Isaac Chotiner asks, “Did Tim Pawlenty blow it?”  I think the answer is yes.  Sure, he really looked not so good when the spotlight was on, but when you consider the way the Republican electorate is utterly flailing around for an alternative to Romeney, you gotta think that Pawlenty would’ve had another chance had he stuck around.   Let’s not forget that McCain (though admittedly with advantages Pawlenty lacks) looked pretty much dead in the water in the Summer of 2007, but he hung in there to give himself the chance for a comeback.  Chotiner makes a nice blog post pretty similar to random Pawlenty thoughts I’ve been sharing with my class of late:

The conventional wisdom several months ago was that a credible challenger with some establishment backing would rise to take on Romney. Pawlenty auditioned for this role, and floundered. He had a weak debate where he didn’t attack Romneycare head-on, and his campaigning was leaden. After struggling through a few tough fundraising months, he quit the race, endorsed Romney, and is likely to be, say, a HUD Secretary in a Romney administration.

It seems possible, however, that Pawlenty badly miscalculated. If we have learned one thing from this election, it is that every candidate will get his or her time in the sun. Bachmann did. Cain did. Even Gingrich is likely to, as Ed Kilgore explains here. Surely this would have been true of Pawlenty, who is a much more credible alternative to Romney. What’s more, when Pawlenty quit it was not even clear that Perry would be a strong candidate (he has not been). Paul Ryan and Chris Christie were always longshots to enter the race. The scenario we are seeing now was very plausible…

Were he still running, Tim Pawlenty would have a better chance than everyone else (minus Romney and perhaps Perry) of winning. That should have at least been enough to merit staying in.

Chotiner also brings up Pawlenty’s difficulty with fundraising, but I imagine if he had stayed in, there’s a lot of people constitutionally-opposed to Romney who would realize they’d rather be giving their money to Pawlenty than Cain or Perry.   Pawlenty’s seeming shrinking violet personality is not exactly an asset in this election year, but Mitt Romney is not exactly Mr. Red Meat (though he’s certainly pretending to be).  I really do think he’d be seriously in the running right now if he had just stuck with it.  Of course, nobody ever said running for President was fun.  Except maybe Hermann Cain who is doing well in the polls without actually doing all the annoying things most presidential candidates actually do.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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