I agree with Scott’s comments on Tim Pawlenty’s withdrawal from the GOP presidential race. As a Pawlenty supporter, I am disappointed. But the bottom line is that this year, at least, what Pawlenty was selling wasn’t what the Republican base wanted to buy. Fairly or not, Pawlenty was never able to get past the first impression of him as just another guy in a suit. Most conservative activists are looking for something different this year, and they saw Pawlenty as more of the same, a perception that was reflected in Pawlenty’s persistent failure to gain traction in the polls.
This is disappointing in part because I think Pawlenty offered the best shot at beating President Obama. Of course, given his failure to connect with the Republican base, this assessment may just reflect my own over-estimate of his appeal.
Pawlenty’s withdrawal leaves Mitt Romney as the only serious candidate who is mainstream in both policy views and persona. Romney continues to lead in the polls, but I don’t think he is immune, by any means, to the rebellious mood that claimed Pawlenty as its first victim. Isn’t it telling that Romney, who won the Iowa straw poll in 2008, decided not to participate this year? Is there any explanation for that decision other than the assumption that Romney knew he would be thrashed by Michele Bachmann?
I don’t know enough about Rick Perry yet to be sure whether he is a viable alternative to Romney. It does seem, however, that a Northerner will match up against Obama better than a Southerner. Republicans want the 2012 race to be fought overwhelmingly on a single battleground: President Obama’s record on the economy. At this point, Romney looks like the candidate best positioned to achieve that strategic goal.