Pawlenty’s Moment

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Tim Pawlenty has already been running for President for weeks and even months now. But candidates nowadays stretch out the process of announcing their candidacies into as many incremental steps as possible, including the establishment of a “leadership” PAC and an exploratory committee. Pawlenty even had to take back an unintentional declaration of his candidacy on CNN a few weeks ago to preserve the opportunity for his official kickoff, which his campaign now says will occur on Monday.

Two things to note about this announcement. One, Pawlenty is not making it from his home state of Minnesota, but from Des Moines, Iowa, underscoring how important the Iowa caucuses will be to his candidacy. Pawlenty will likely have trouble keeping up with the fundraising (and personal fortunes) of Mitt Romney and Jon Hunstman, and with the potential financial power of Newt, Inc. But he’s hoping that a win in Iowa will command national attention and bring in a sudden flood of money–as it did for Mike Huckabee in 2008–thereby catapulting him into the later states. (A poor showing in Iowa, particularly given his advantage of coming from a neighboring state, could mortally wound his candidacy.)

The second is that his timing is pretty good. As I argued in my new profile of Pawlenty in this week’s issue, he is likely due for a closer look than he’s gotten so far. At the moment the GOP field doesn’t offer much. Mitt Romney is the frontrunner, Huntsman is an unknown quantity, Gingrich is already in deep trouble, and the other candidates–from Rick Santorum to Gary Johnson–don’t seem like plausible nominees. Now is the moment when Pawlenty needs to remind Republicans looking for an alternative to Romney that he’s here, and to get them to focus on him. We’ll see whether he can do it.