Pawlenty and Daniels

May 24, 2011

The Republican 2012 presidential field continues to take shape. Over the weekend, Herman Cain officially announced his run. Although the radio talk show host and former pizza businessman is popular within the Tea Party movement, he will not be a serious contender for the nomination. Yet, he could play a spoiler roll if he captures enough votes from the Tea Party movement and conservative evangelicals (see earlier post on Cain here). On Monday, a more serious candidate made his run official--former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. With his governance experience and mainstream appeal, Pawlenty could have a legitimate shot at garnering the nomination. He currently sits just a little better in the polls than Mike Huckabee did at this point four years ago. With Huckabee's decision not to run this time (see post here), Pawlenty has a shot to make a strong standing in Iowa. With his appeal to conservative evangelicals (his pastor is the president of the influential National Association of Evangelicals) and his ability to meet the rhetorical expectations of the our age of confessional politics (see post here), Pawlenty could fill part of the Huckabee void. The Iowa straw poll this August will be an important first test for Pawlenty to see if he can follow Huckabee's path to jumping to the front of the pack.

Also helping Pawlenty is the fact that over the weekend yet another potential candidate decided not to run--Mitch Daniels. The 5'7" Indiana Governor would have been an interesting candidate with his strong record of accomplishments and cool-headed rhetoric but without the normal charisma that national candidates bring to the stage. Additionally, his candidacy would have posed an interesting test of the influence of conservative evangelical leaders as he had previously called for a "truce" on social issues. His record situated him as uniquely able to implement a truce, which he urged so that the GOP and the nation could focus on solving pressing economic concerns. Daniels posed an interesting case since he actually had a record on social issues that matches or surpasses much of the Republican presidential field. He would not have been a Bob Dole or John McCain type of candidate with a long record of mutual distrust and dislike with the key Republican base of evangelical voters. Yet, despite his record, many conservative evangelical leaders viciously attacked his call for a "truce" as they seemed concerned they would lose their confessional political influence. His decision not to run seems to be primarily out of concern for protecting his family's privacy, which might make him the true "family values" politician. His decision not to run--as well as the earlier departures of Huckabee, Donald Trump, and Haley Barbour--leaves the field wide open for Pawlenty or another candidate to establish themselves as the main challenger to current frontrunner Mitt Romney.

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