Pawlenty in Iowa: Not Doomed!

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 27 2011 8:15 AM

Pawlenty in Iowa: Not Doomed!

I'm with Nate Silver on the Des Moines Register 's Iowa poll . Yes, it's good for Michele Bachmann that she begins her launch tour in a tie with Mitt Romney. It's not necessarily bad that Tim Pawlenty, the Minnesota candidate whose image and network and strategists and record make him the "serious" anti-Romney, is only at 6 percent at this stage.

Consider Jonathan Bernstein’s reminder about the first Iowa Poll in the last election cycle, which was published in May, 2007. In that survey, Mitt Romney — who eventually finished second in Iowa — had 30 percent of the vote. In second and third place were John McCain (with 18 percent) and Rudy Giuliani (17 percent), who flopped there. The winner of the caucuses, Mike Huckabee, had 4 percent of the vote at this point in time — behind the likes of Tommy Thompson and Sam Brownback.

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Sure. I will briefly state the difference -- McCain and Giuliani were media favorites with limited appeal to social conservatives, whereas as this weekend's Flakegate reminded us that the media isn't schlepping Bachmann. But generally speaking, it's June and you don't want your dark horse candidate to be surging in a key state yet. The internals:

People don’t dislike him, despite perceptions of a milquetoast performance in the New Hampshire debate. Just 13 percent have an unfavorable impression of him. And while 6 percent say Pawlenty is their top choice, which is in line with national poll numbers, 12 percent name him their backup pick.

Jon Huntsman's unfavorables are six points higher than Pawlenty's! (Some of this has to be linked to Huntsman's showy diss of the caucuses, because the rubes there won't like his no-subsidies stances.) Pawlenty is no one's least favorite candidate, and at some point the gyre's going to spin again and he'll be able to turn in a Surprisingly Good performance at a cattle call or debate.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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