With solid credentials in a weak field, the former governor may find an opening
With Tim Pawlenty making his presidential bid official Sunday, pressure is mounting on him to persuade Republicans that he's a contender, not a consolation prize.
The former Minnesota governor is widely viewed as a credible candidate with above-average conservative credentials, smart handlers, and a compelling up-from-the-bootstraps story as the Midwestern son of a truck driver. But polls show he has yet to capture the imagination of primary voters.
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Pawlenty also has yet to prove that he can compete with the fundraising prowess demonstrated by Mitt Romney, the putative front-runner and former Massachusetts governor whose 2008 campaign experience gives him a leg up.
With other potential big-name players dropping left and right--Mitch Daniels, Mike Huckabee, and Haley Barbour have all ruled out bids in recent weeks--and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich stumbling out of the starting gate, some Republican insiders already see the race narrowing into a faceoff between Pawlenty and Romney, each of whom can claim near favorite-son status in the two earliest-voting states. Pawlenty will hold his first rally as a bona fide candidate Monday morning in Iowa, the state he sees as his gateway to the nomination, while Romney is leading the polls in New Hampshire, whose media market he shared when he was governor of neighboring Massachusetts and where he owns a home.