In 2012, Don't Bet on Pawlenty or Thune

Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Newt Gingrich all have name recognition, television presence, campaign infrastructure, brands, and natural constituencies. They are clear frontrunners in the polls. So why are outgoing Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and South Dakota Senator John Thune considered contenders? The New York Times' Nate Silver reveals a chart that compares statistics on chance of winning the nomination, the candidates' current power ranking, their average standing, and favorability ratings. According do those statistics, Silver says he would bet against Pawlenty and Thune.

The other potential flaw in the analysis of candidates like Mr. Pawlenty and Mr. Thune is that some seem to think it an asset that they are bland and unobjectionable. In a primary election that isn't an asset, but a liability. A primary election isn't a reality show in which candidates are eliminated one at a time for failing some challenge. Instead, voters pick the one candidate whom they most like, rather than the one they most dislike; a candidate who has strong favorables and strong unfavorables is going to be more people's first choice than one whom everyone feels indifferent about. Someone with a more distinct and provocative brand -- like Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey or Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin -- might stand a better chance in an underdog role, although neither is likely to run for president in 2012.

Sometimes late in a primary campaign -- if it appears, for instance, that the party might face a brokered convention or nominate an unelectable candidate -- voters (and party elites, certainly) can start to behave more tactically, and that's where a candidate like Mr. Thune or Mr. Pawlenty could have some chance. More likely, however, their upside consists of introducing themselves to the electorate in a way that would allow them to be bona fide contenders in 2016.

Read the full story at FiveThirtyEight.

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Elizabeth Weingarten is an editorial assistant at the New America Foundation. A former Slate editorial assistant, she also previously wrote for and produced the Atlantic's International Channel.

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