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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

That Deeply Divisive Tim Pawlenty

The Palin resignation saga has refocused some media and insider attention on the early field for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. And the latest data, from Rasumussen, has reported the usual tight three-way contest among Palin (the favorite of 24% of self-identified Republicans), Romney (leading at 25%), and Huckabee (a close third at 22%).
But the poll also checked out favorable and unfavorable opinions of these putative candidates, and here’s where the numbers get a little wacky: Romney 73/19; Palin 76/21; Huckabee 78/17; Gingrich 65/39. That’s all very predictable. But then there’s Haley Barbour at 34/37, and Tim Pawlenty at 38/33. Only a fifth of Republicans have issues with Palin, while about half of those who seem to have an idea who Haley Barbour and Tim Pawlenty are don’t like them.
Barbour’s controversial nature is somewhat understandable; he was a Washington insider for decades before returning to govern one of the less admired states, and his Foghorn Leghorn speaking style doesn’t appeal to everybody. Still, the things about Barbour that might repel Democrats–say, his lobbying career–don’t usually bother Republicans. And what on earth has Tim Pawlenty done to offend so many Republicans?
Maybe the answer is that this is a Rasmussen poll, and shouldn’t be taken that seriously. Or maybe the perpetual competition among Republican candidates to outperform each other in ideological posturing has evolved into a mandatory exercise. If you are not out there every day shrieking about socialism or promising to end the “Holocaust” of legalized abortion, then something must be wrong with you. That’s the only thing I can think of that would make a tapioca politician like Pawlenty so much more disliked, even among Republicans, than Sarah Palin.

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