By Brendan Loy
• Pawlenty 2012: Adequate for America
• Pawlenty 2012: Less Frightening Than The Various Alternatives
• Pawlenty 2012: We Are The Ones We Have Been Vaguely Waiting For, Sort Of
• Pawlenty 2012: In Your Heart, You Know He’s Alright
• Pawlenty 2012: Mediocrity We Can Believe In
• Pawlenty 2012: Bland Over Blue
What say you, O Internet masses? Any better ideas?
On a more serious note, I’ve been pondering my GOP nomination odds since I posted them in a comment Sunday night, and I think I may be underestimating Romney’s chances a bit. I have Multiple-Choice Mitt with a 22% of winning, well behind T-Paw’s 33%, based on the notion that Romney’s manifest flaws and his sordid past will prove too much to overcome, and Pawlenty (who presently barely registers in the polls, whereas Mitt has a low plurality lead) will eventually rise to the top, given the absence of viable alternatives (no Daniels, etc.). But it occurs to me that, while Pawlenty is clearly the Generic Republican, Romney is the Default Republican — the candidate who people just sort of assume is the front-runner, and who is liable to get a decent baseline of support from relatively low-information voters unless and until somebody else catches fire. (And really, is it even possible to imagine Tim Pawlenty “catching fire”?) Some years, the Default Republican and the Generic Republican are the same person — think Bob Dole — but this year they’re definitely not. Looking at Romney vs. Pawlenty as Default Republican vs. Generic Republican is a pretty useful framing of the race, I think.
Anyway, Romney’s status as the Default Republican potentially matters a lot, in general but especially in one specific, plausible scenario: if the need arises to rally around an anti-Bachmann or anti-Palin (or anti-Santorum??), and Pawlenty’s campaign hasn’t taken off yet, Romney would be the logical hold-your-nose-and-vote-for-someone-who-isn’t-crazy choice. Basically, as I think about it, Pawlenty really, really needs to win Iowa, so he can use the momentum boost (a la John Kerry) to suddenly vault to the front of the pack. If, instead, an unelectable far-right candidate wins Iowa, it’s very possible that Romney’s superior name recognition and poll numbers — and the #PANIC!!! of the GOP’s non-crazy wing — would allow the Default Republican to become “inevitable” before the Generic Republican ever has a chance to really catch on.
Oh, and also: Pawlenty has a money problem. Romney doesn’t. That matters, too.
In light of this, I think I’d revise my odds to something like:
*Assumes a roughly 20-25% chance he runs.
**Assumes a roughly 50% chance she runs.
Compare and contrast with Intrade, which I think is slightly undervaluing Palwenty and Bachmann, and waaay overvaluing Huntsman, who I personally like but can’t imagine winning the nomination. Also, although I don’t specifically call out Jeb Bush on the above list (he’s subsumed within the 10% for “Other”), Intrade’s 0.3% odds for Jeb winning the nomination seem like a bargain to me. He very likely won’t run — but if he did, he’d have a helluva good shot.
(Apropos of which, if Perry jumps in, he becomes an instant front-runner on my list, and Pawlenty’s chances are shot to hell. If Palin jumps in, she and Bachmann roughly switch places.)
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