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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Is Tim Pawlenty In The Sweet Spot or Mushy Middle?

Thanks to reader James for the link to this chart by Nate Silver, showing where Silver believes various potential Republian candidates fall on a sliding scale of insider/outsider and conservative/moderate:

Sweet spot, or mushy middle?

If it is any help, here's how Silver describes Pawlenty's position:
Tim Pawlenty I had trouble placing him in any of the four quadrants. As Jay Cost of The Weekly Standard points out, — Mr. Pawlenty enjoys something of a reputation as a moderate even though his positions are fairly conservative: he has pledged to reinstate the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, for instance. Likewise, Mr. Pawlenty seems to keep Washington at arm’s length while having supporters within the Republican establishment.

I have been skeptical about Mr. Pawlenty’s candidacy, in large part because his personality is not terribly dynamic and he has had some trouble creating a strong brand for himself; sales of his book “Courage to Stand”, for instance, have been quite weak. Still, he can be credited with a viable strategy: stay a safe distance off the lead lap, and hope for a multicar pileup ahead of him.

That Mr. Pawlenty has been among the first Republicans to build out his campaign infrastructure fits with that strategy — it would be valuable in the car-crash scenario, which implies a long, drawn-out nomination process. So does the fact that Mr. Pawlenty could plausibly position himself as conservative or moderate, insider or outsider, as the situation dictates.
Update:  You may also want to check out reader comments at So Tell Me About Tim Pawlenty

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  1. I'm with 10. I also think they have The Huckster WAY off. He's closer to Romney than Palin. And Gingrich? He sat on the sofa with Queen nancy and told us we had to do something about (alleged) AGW. He's an insider alright, but not a real Con. Just another prog. So my conclusion is that this means little about Pawlenty. I've seen enough to know he's pretty low on my list.

  2. The left arrow should point to "liberal", not "moderate".

  3. 1. Putting Ron Paul in the moderate camp shows the problem with the definitions.

    2. Everyone seems to have their favorite for President. We need to remember that the current administration does not consist of just Barack Obama. A Republican administration of whomever will require cabinet secretaries and other officials (but not czars). Many of these "favorite sons" will be needed for these positions.

    3. I'm afraid 2012 will be like 2008--the many conservative candidates will fracture the conservative vote and a RINO will win the nomination again. I think Romney will be that man. If so, I'll not vote for the Republican candidate.

  4. I think Silver's take is a bit cynical, but it's not that far off the mark.

    I know what I'd prefer, but I think Pawlenty is the best we'll get (and I kind of like the stealth conservative aspect, although I know that won't last). I would much prefer a strong conservative - especially a fiscal conservative, but I've come to the conclusion that, on a national level, in lieu of a truly gifted candidate like Reagan, strong conservatives aren't electable. I know, however, that the Republican Party Lounge Lizards who brought us Dole and McCain will like Pawlenty. I also believe that the huge mushy middle of voters who pay little or no attention until after Labor Day would find him "vote-for-able" as well.

  5. This chart is a complete load. It's Silver's attempt to game the nomination race early. Paul a moderate? Why? Because he wants to end the wars in the Middle East? That's the only thing I can think of that pulls him "to the center". Gingrich a conservative? He's compromised more than any other "candidate" on that chart, even after he left the office of the Speaker. And how on Earth do he, Barbour, Paul, Pawlenty, Huckabee, DeMint, and Hunstman rank lower on the Insider scale than Romney does? They've all been in the game longer than he has. In fact, the only people on that chart who's held public office for less time than Romney are Cain, Bolton, and Trump. Even Palin's been a politician for longer. Silver just wants to impose his own brand of chaos on the primary season. You'll notice none of the circles touch each other at all. Is that because they're really all that different, or is it an attempt to keep the primary voters as divided as possible?

  6. I think Gingrich would be our only obvious disaster.

    But man, even though I'm personally a Palin fan, 2012 is going to be rough. We're going to have to spend that year being our own leaders, and at least letting the liberals and progressives know that Conservatives aren't dying out in this country. No more of this "Running out of our houses to vote" nonsense the last generation got too comfortable with doing.

  7. I think he's right that the car-pileup strategy (aka "The Full McCain") is Pawlenty's best hope. However, while that's a viable strategy for getting the nomination, it's pretty much a precursor of doom in the general.

    If you think through the last 30 years or so of presidential elections, you will notice that it's always the candidate who has both strong positives and strong negatives who wins. (See: Reagan over Mondale, Clinton over Dole, Bush over Kerry.) Looking back, it seems clear that it's better, electorally, to have your party love you and have the other party think you are the anti-Christ than to have most everybody agree that you're a nice guy.

    Republicans can wishful-think that this will finally be the year that Americans go for a nice, bland guy who doesn't arouse passions over a President that some significant portion of democrats and fools still love, but it would be unprecedented and rather surprising. The car-crash strategy selects for the bland, which will ultimately doom the GOP in 2012.

  8. That is the stupidest chart I have ever seen. I think Nate's moderate-conservative scale is purely based on their views towards gay rights. In which other world would Ron Paul and Gary Johnson - the closest things to libertarian ideologues be considered moderate and Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum be considered conservative?

    A few hilarious observations:

    Most "conservative": Santorum, Gingrich, Palin

    Most "moderate": Johnson, Paul

    Giullani, Mittens, Huck, Thune, Pawlenty, Palin, Gingrich - all more "conservative" than Ron Paul.

    And these are the enlightened ones who will inform America about how to think. Wonderful!