He's well-regarded inside the Beltway, but the former governor has yet to rise within the GOP presidential field. What can he do to make his mark?
There is still, after a year and a half of serious campaigning, a fundamental disconnect at the heart of Tim Pawlenty's presidential efforts: Reporters, pundits, and party strategists think he's the real deal, one of the most formidable 2012 contenders around ... and nobody else seems to know who he is.
The former governor has been doing all the right things since the fall of 2009. He formed an independent political group. He traveled to Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida, and South Carolina. He hired advisers people in Washington had heard of. He raised money.
Somehow, it hasn't clicked. Not that national polls matter yet, but they reveal ongoing low name recognition for Pawlenty, who he has yet to crack double digits in polls and typically ranks seventh when "possible" candidates Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani are included.
Pawlenty hasn't broken out in Iowa polling, either -- even as that state figures prominently in his electoral strategy. He recently began airing TV ads there, but the first Des Moines Register poll of likely GOP caucusgoers shows him with a way to go. It put him in sixth place, with six percent support.