Editorial: What if Pawlenty had stayed in?

Published 9:11 am Monday, November 21, 2011


It seems every candidate in the Republican presidential race gets their moment in the sun.

The cycle makes us wonder what would have happened had former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty not bailed on the race. It’s a common conversation in Minnesota these days.

Email newsletter signup

He left after a poor showing at a poll of Republicans at a high-profile gathering in Ames, Iowa, last summer and after seeing Texas Gov. Rick Perry enter. Back then, Perry was considered a top-tier candidate.

Pawlenty wonders, too. In fact, back in October, Pawlenty told the Associated Press, “if I would have known then what I know now,” he would have remained in the race.

It would appear Pawlenty’s miscalculation was that he forgot much of this same merry-go-round happened before the 2008 presidential election. Arizona Sen. John McCain was a back-of-the-pack candidate until near the end, when the Republicans sidestepped Govs. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee to select the person they felt was the most electable. In other words, someone who appeals to the middle.

If Pawlenty had stayed in, he probably would seem more electable than several of the candidates that have been getting their turn in the sun. Pawlenty won the middle in Minnesota twice, a state that generally leans left. If he had stayed in the race and endured the ever-lasting debates, his star might have risen.

Lesson learned: Some convention poll in Iowa a year and a half before the actual election should not be a reason to leave a presidential race.