To no one’s surprise, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced on Monday that he will form a presidential exploratory committee.
Sizing up the Republican hopeful as he takes the next step toward a presidential bid reveals that the pluses and minuses he brings to the race are closely related. Many of his shortcomings are the flip side of his political strengths. Consider:
The Case for Pawlenty in 2012:
1. He’s a fresh face. In this volatile political climate, voters are frequently casting about for someone new. Pawlenty gained some recognition for being on Sen. John McCain’s vice presidential shortlist in 2008, but polls show he is largely unknown. That sets up the campaign as a golden opportunity to introduce himself to voters and make a positive impression.
2. He’s a steady hand. Pawlenty isn’t known for giving speeches that raise the roof, but he did build a reputation as a competent, fiscally conservative governor.
3. He’s a fiscal and social conservative. Concerned about government spending? As governor, Pawlenty held the line on taxes. Opposed to abortion and gay marriage? So is Pawlenty.
The Case Against Pawlenty:
1. He’s an unknown. Untested commodities make donors nervous. He hasn’t proven that he can withstand the rigors of a national campaign. Republican voters, in particular, tend to favor familiar faces.
2. He’s bland. Unlike his firebrand potential rivals Sarah Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann, a fellow Minnesota Republican, Pawlenty rarely delivers a memorable line. It’s easy to see him fading into the woodwork.
3. He’s got no gimmick. Pawlenty doesn’t have a signature issue or message, a la President Obama with hope and change. He needs to lay out a clear vision of why he is running for president.