Examining the Potential GOP Presidential Candidates (Part IV): Tim Pawlenty

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has recently formed a presidential exploratory committee. In terms of Pawlenty's presidential aspirations, the republican can definately be a competitive front-runner -- especially early in the Iowa caucus. But the question remains whether “Minnesota nice” can get him noticed with the fiery GOP base, and if he can get enough money needed to win. 

Pawlenty describes himself as a “Sam’s Club” fiscal conservative. Similar to former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, he began his political career at the local level as a city councilman and then served five terms as a member of the Minnesota state House of Representatives. Then, in 2002, he snubbed the GOP political establishment and ran for governor by defeating the establishment candidate in a primary.

He possesses several strengths as a candidate. He brings a record of fiscal conservatism as governor. During both of his terms, he balanced the budget without raises taxes; however, there is some debate between the difference in taxes and fees. For example, in 2009, Pawlenty eliminated a $2.7 billion budget deficit by cutting spending, shifting payments, and using one-time money. However, millions of that were from increasing state college tuition and other fees. Luckily for him, the prevailing perception is that he balanced the budget without raising taxes.

Additionally, his Midwest roots will give Pawlenty an advantage in the Iowa caucus. The unique format and politics of the Iowa caucus provide those with regional ties a leg up on the competition. However, he is not the only contender from the region. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R – Minn.) is originally from Iowa. A Bachmann run could dampen any advantage Pawlenty has. His electability against President Obama is more promising than other candidates, such as Palin. Although an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll recently showed that Obama would defeat Pawlenty 51 percent to 39 percent in an election match up. Still, an astounding 61 percent of respondents had never heard Pawlenty’s name.

His lack of name recognition is a short-term disadvantage during the primaries. However, because he is unknown to 60 percent of the electorate, he will have the ability to form a positive name ID over time. That could provide a long-term advantage in a general election and strengthen his electability. His populist brand of commonsense conservatism could allow him to attract voters outside the GOP, namely independents and “Reagan democrats." In contrast to some other candidates, he has acredible and organized campaign team in place.

The major question looming over the former governor is his fundraising capability. He has zero experience fundraising as a national candidate and has not proven he can raise the money necessary to mount a serious run. Billions of dollars are expected to be spent in a highly contested primary and general election; can a little known candidate keep pace?

While he would be a formidable opponent to President Obama, Pawlenty will not likely be the nominee because of these reasons. I do not expect him to be the Republican nominee in 2012, but look for him to make an impact in future election cycles.

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