He may not win the GOP nomination, but Tim Pawlenty has his timing down pat.
From the carefully timed announcement of his exploratory committee – before any other major contender, but not too early – to his Johnny-on-the-spot criticisms of the current administration, Pawlenty has been quick on the draw at just the right moment.
It happened again today, with Pawlenty’s official announcement of his Presidential bid.
The big story over the weekend was Mitch Daniels bowing out of the race. The stories about the “weak” Republican field were already written: you saw them after Mike Huckabee’s exit earlier this month, and even after Donald Trump’s withdrawal before that. Each time that story gets rewritten, it’s bad news for Tim Pawlenty; it makes the Republican field sound like Mitt Romney and the Seven Dwarfs, with him as one of the dwarfs. (Possibly Bashful.)
By announcing just two days after Daniels’s deferral, Pawlenty answers those stories without whining that he’s being overlooked. He keeps his donors and activists engaged, and he keeps his campaign moving forward.
And that’s all he has to do right now. With Daniels stepping aside, the path for Pawlenty to the nomination becomes clearer: has a sporting shot at winning the Iowa caucuses, and after he’s a very plausible contender in South Carolina and possibly Florida. Coming out of the early states within striking distance of Romney would make Pawlenty a viable alternative for conservative activists who can’t get excited about Romney’s policy baggage (i.e. health care).
Slow and steady may not sound like the way to win a presidential race, but at this point who’s going to argue with Pawlenty’s timing?