The Agenda

Philip Klein on Tim Pawlenty

Klein offers a solid interpretation of Pawlenty’s departure from the presidential race:

Pawlenty should have challenged Romney as a more authentic alternative. If you look back at 2008, Romney was beaten by Mike Huckabee and John McCain. Like them or hate them, Huckabee and McCain are two politicians that connect with people on a gut level. Pawlenty has a compelling personal life story and can be perfectly likable in person. Had he simply been himself, he would have had a better chance to bond with voters on a personal level. And if you do that, they’re more forgiving when you explain various “clunkers” in your record, as Pawlenty liked to put it. Unfortunately, Pawlenty’s need to make up for his various deviations from conservatism resulted in a consultant-driven, overly scripted campaign. That’s the exact opposite of what he needed to do if he was going to differentiate himself. Nobody is going to out-robot Mitt Romney.

Ramesh Ponnuru had a different take yesterday:


One line I’m hearing a lot is that he lost because he is too boring. (Change a tense and you heard it a lot during his campaign too.) I don’t buy it. Romney isn’t Mr. Excitement and he has a good shot at winning the nomination.

Pawlenty made some serious strategic errors — going after Romneycare when he did, in the way he did, and then backing off; not controlling his feelings toward Bachmann; overcompensating for the “boring” charge by pretending to be someone he isn’t — but those too may in the end have been beside the point. It may be that there just wasn’t room in the field for a candidate a few steps to Romney’s right. There was room for an establishment candidate and a populist conservative candidate, but perhaps not enough for someone in between.

In my small corner of the world, things moved in an anti-Pawlenty direction when he released his quixotic tax and entitlement reform proposals, which Josh Barro described in City Journal. Josh also addressed Pawlenty’s 5% real GDP growth target

I have more to say on Pawlenty, which I’ll inflict on you later this week. 

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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