Pawlenty's Out, Perry's InAugust 15, 2011
The Republican presidential campaign changed substantially over the weekend as one candidate dropped out and another finally got in. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty was initially expected to be a leading contender, but struggled to excite GOP activists (the photo is one I took of him in Iowa last week). After his distant third-place finish in the Iowa Straw Poll on Saturday, it became clear that he was not going to be able to raise the money or organize the voters necessary to win the nomination. Thus, he dropped out of the presidential race on Sunday morning. The departure of Pawlenty, who attempted to use the confessional political style to woe conservative evangelicals (see posts here and here), is particularly helpful for candidates trying to woo that same group. Although U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann brought in conservative evangelicals and TEA Party activists to win the Straw Poll, the harsh attacks between her and Pawlenty means his supporters will likely move elsewhere.
One candidate who might gain from Pawlenty's fall is Texas Governor Rick Perry. Already Perry is attempting to use the confessional political style to win over conservative evangelicals. This is not surprising given the fact that Perry met back in June with a group of conservative Christian leaders led by evangelist James Robison. The Washington Independent connected Perry's new religious-political outreach with the Robison story that I broke. Perry said last week that he decided to run for president about 45 days earlier, which means he was running while he hosted his August 6th political prayer rally (see posts here and here). That timeline suggests Perry decided to run just a few days after his meeting with Robison. The Perry-Bachmann match-up will be important to watch as they both fight to win over conservative evangelicals and TEA Partiers.