In an announcement earlier this week, Tim Pawlenty hired former Gov. Mike Huckabee’s (R-Ark.) daughter to join the Pawlenty camp as a strategist in hopes of recreating Huckabee’s astonishing victory in the 2008 Iowa caucuses. The move can potentially benefit Pawlenty in Iowa and New Hampshire but will not lead him to the GOP nomination, just as we saw with Huckabee in 2008.
The Pawlenty campaign is crumbling. The former Minnesota Governor was first to throw his hat in the presidential ring but with the emergence of other candidates, his momentum has disappeared. His fundraising and outreach have been weak, with only $4.2 million in donations. There is no doubt that Mitt Romney has been the frontrunner for the nomination, and Pawlenty had hoped to cast himself as the alternative to the former Massachusetts governor. However, Pawlenty has sat on the sidelines and watched a fellow Minnesotan Michele Bachmann become the leading alternative.
If Pawlenty loses all momentum ahead of August’s Ames Staw Poll, he could be the first candidate to drop out of the race, even though he was the first candidate to enter into the race. Pawlenty has attempted to adjust to the grip-and-grin politics required to win the Iowa voters. However, the polls show no sympathy. In an Iowa poll released last month, Pawlenty garners a mere 6% support compared to Romney’s 23% and Bachmann’s 22%. Even if Pawlenty can somehow finish in third in the Caucuses (a position which currently belongs to Herman Cain,) I don’t see how he will have enough support to get to Super Tuesday. And if Pawlenty does not finish third in the straw poll, I believe we could be well on our way to seeing him drop out of the race altogether.
Attempting to mirror Huckabee’s 2008 campaign is a disastrous mistake for Pawlenty. After all, Huckabee never won the nomination and didn’t help himself for any potential future campaigns. Pawlenty is now at a crossroads where he has to decide what type of candidate he wants to be. Does he want to be a serious player in the Republican Party and a serious contender for the presidency or does he just want to shape the debate and strengthen the party?
To be honest, he’s failing in both scenarios. I will go out on a limb and say it, the first scenario is not an option this time around. In regards to shaping the debate, he couldn’t have a productive debate about healthcare and defend his own previous attacks against Mitt Romney which suggests that maybe the GOP would be better off if Pawlenty sat this election out.
What Pawlenty needs to do is develop his own unique strategy, not adopt Huckabee’s. He will not win the nomination in 2012 but should the Democrats retain the White House, he will be a top contender in 2016, when he can learn from the mistakes he made in his first national campaign.
With Pawlenty's putting so much focus on Iowa, there is no doubt that the Ames Straw Poll in August will be a major test and that the Cacuses on Feb. 6 will make or break his campaign; but look for them to break it.
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