Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pawlenty Quitting

Pawlenty Quitting

Just breaking that Tpaw will announce today that he's dropping out of the presidential race. Obviously yesterday's weak third in the straw poll, with Bachmann first and Ron Paul nearly tied, was not just disappointing, it was fatal.

In the old days of brokered conventions, Tim Pawlenty might have won the big prize: acceptable to pretty much everyone in the party, offensive to few. He didn't hurt himself enough to knock himself out of the VP mix. And in a nomination system where Powers That Be still exerted significant influence, he may have had a chance.

But in an atmosphere that values style over substance, and in a party that values gridlock over governing, he didn't have a prayer. The debate scraps between Pawlenty and Bachmann just three days ago are a microcosm of his entire fate. Bachmann pointed to all the "fights" she's fought -- no debt ceiling this, no light bulb mandates that. Pawlenty noted she hadn't actually WON any of these fights. The Republican Party responded with a collective "So what?"

So who does this help? No one a whole lot, because I don't see an en masse move to one candidate. The question is more: Who does this NOT help?

It doesn't help Romney. He and TPaw were competing for much of the same "grownup" niche, and I'm thinking anyone who was with a struggling TPaw instead of nominal national frontrunner Romney has already rejected Mitt for whatever reason: Obamneycare (that word may be TPaw's lasting contribution to this race) or, without saying so, his religion.

It doesn't help Bachmann or Paul, who are running on explicitly different messages. I suspect TPaw's people share the ex-candidate's disdain for Bachmann. Paul's success depends entirely on maximizing turnout in his Peace and Gold niche. The straw poll, with its emphasis on intense commitment, may have already done that.

Herman Cain is already dead, he just doesn't know it yet. Huntsman's not playing, and who knows what the hell Thad McCotter is doing. Maybe a handful of folks gravitate to Newt, but not many.

So that leaves the Ricks. Santorum got just enough support at just the right time to stay alive. And as I consider it, the core case for him and Pawlenty has some similarities: experience, ability to win on tough turf, solid conservative record on social issues.

Of course, Santorum emphasized those social issues more, and I think that accounted for much of his surprisingly strong 10% yesterday. (Bachmann, who got into politics on that cluster of issues in the first place, should have owned that vote.) As for electoral success, Santorum has the albatross of losing his senate seat by 20 points. He has an answer for that -- it was an annus horriblis for Republicans -- but Pawlenty managed to keep his job that year.

And so did Rick Perry, though it was with just 39% in a bizarre four way race. Perry has been a polarizer within his party the last half decade: In 2006 Carole Keeton Strayhorn dropped a primary challenge to run independent and win 18%, and last year sitting Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison challenged him. (Both women. Interesting implication vis a vis Bachmann.)

The Platypus enters the race with TPaw's 13% of the straw poll vote and a decent organization shaken loose from the moorings this Sunday morning. This list of 29 county chairs may be populated with Some Dudes, but at least 10 legislators were on board. Pawlenty's body may not be cold yet, but that's a good list of phone calls for the Ricks to be making ASAP.

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