Tim Pawlenty makes it official: He's all in for president (video)

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Earlier this month on the New Republic's website, writer Jonathan Chait wrote a piece called "Why I'd Place My Bet on Tim Pawlenty." He arrived at his conclusion by taking down the other top contenders, beginning with Romney and working his way through Mitch Daniels, Newt Gingrich, Haley Barbour and Mitch Daniels.

That leaves Pawlenty. He has demonstrated political talent, having worked his way up the party hierarchy and winning the governorship in blue-ish Minnesota twice. His record contains only one major ideological deviationsupport for cap-and-trade, at a time when cap-and-trade seemed to be emerging as a consensus GOP position, which he has thoroughly recanted. Because cap-and-trade is dead with no prospect of revival, I think Pawlenty could survive this apostasy. Ramesh Ponnuru’s cover story in National Review makes a persuasive case for Pawlenty as the strongest combination of conservatism and electability.

In the end, Pawlenty’s calling card is an ability to appeal to white working-class voters. Pawlenty calls himself a “Sam’s Club Republican.” The phrase has also been used by Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam in urging the party to adopt a more working-class friendly platform. But the coincidence between the two uses of the phrase ends there. Pawlenty does not dissent in any way from the party’s plutocratic platformhis notion of working class appeal lies purely in the realm of personal style. This, too, places Pawlenty squarely in the George W. Bush mold of nominee, a reasonably (though not wildly) talented pol who uses charisma to demonstrate working-class authenticity while reliably toeing the party line.

I’m not going to proclaim Pawlenty a lock or even an outright favorite. But I do see him as the leading contender, and his intrade value (currently showing a 13.5 percent chance of winning) should probably be two to three times higher. In a wide-open field, Pawlenty is where I’d place my bet.

Because Barack Obama raised over $700 million in winning the White House in 2008, the conventional wisdom has it that a Republican candidate needs to be able to raise (on his own) at least $200-$300 million.  But I'm not sure that's correct.  Obama will be extremely hard pressed to raise close to that amount, and groups like Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS will be around to supplement both the GOP candidate and what the RNC can contribute to a presidential run.

Can Pawlenty pull it off?  Who knows?  But it will be fun to see if he can win the hearts of his fellow Republicans nationally, as well as turn on independents.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has become the first of the big time Republican candidates to officially enter into the 2012 presidential election, making the announcement Monday with this nearly two minute video message on Facebook.

When people who care about these things discuss the possible challengers to Barack Obama in 2012, one of two things usually happens;  They will say that there is a dearth of truly charismatic people in the GOP race, which is why there is an opening for someone that might generally be considered not to have paid his (or her) dues could make a serious run: we're talking people like Chris Christie, Marco Rubio and perhaps Paul Ryan.

Or, sticking with the suspects that are presumed to be running, the obvious front runner is Mitt Romney - what with his Central Casting looks, his access to lots of cash, the inroads he made in 2008, and the fact that he has solid bases all across the country (New England, from being the Governor of Massachusetts; Michigan, where his father was Governor; Utah, where he "saved" the Winter Olympic Games in 2002, and even California, where he moved to after the '08 campaign in La Jolla).

Right next to Romney is the 50-year-old Pawlenty, who still needs to work considerably to get his name known to GOP voters.  Pawlenty has obviously been a candidate for awhile, but felt he could no longer wait to get into the race.  By announcing his candidacy with only 9 days left in a first quarter reporting period for contributions, nobody will expect anything when those results are made public next month.

Now Pawlenty has to start raising some serious coin now and over the next three months.  In July, when the next reporting period is announced, he has to show some credibility by raising a certain amount of money to impress folks that he's a serious candidate.  We don't know what that number is, but it will be a story, one way or another, later this summer.

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