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June 26th, 2011

Can Pawlenty Survive Ames?

By Craig Robinson

On paper, Tim Pawlenty’s Iowa caucus campaign looks formidable.  In addition to traveling to the state on a regular basis, he’s hired three well-known Iowa political consultants to help him navigate his campaign here.  He’s assembled an Iowa staff that is larger than all of the other staffs of all the other candidates participating in Iowa combined.   And it’s a staff that includes Mike Huckabee’s 2008 caucus campaign manager and Mitt Romney’s 2008 straw poll coordinator.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, he’s the only candidate who is currently advertising online, in mailboxes, on the television sets, and on the radio.  When you add in to the mix that Pawlenty is a former governor of a neighboring state, you can see that, on paper, he looks like the Iowa frontrunner.  But as we all know, campaigns are not won on paper, especially when it’s a caucus contest.

The Des Moines Register’s new Iowa Poll shows Pawlenty with the support of just 6 percent of those surveyed.  His campaign’s problem isn’t that he’s stuck in sixth place and in single digits, it’s that his campaign is stuck in neutral after investing heavily in Iowa.

Bob Haus, a multi-cycle caucus veteran, best described the Pawlenty campaign’s mentality when he told the Huffington Post that he’s taking a “Field of Dreams’ approach, if you build it, they will come.”  The only problem is the people are not coming.  What Pawlenty has built here in Iowa is impressive, but paying certain consultants and hiring a certain amount of staff has never been the key to building a winning caucus campaign.  While his team has studied the campaigns of caucuses past, it seems they forgot to factor in the recent mood of the electorate.

The non-aggression pact that Pawlenty seems to be operating under is a recipe for failure.  Maybe instead of trying to prove to he’s tough by telling Iowans that he opposes ethanol subsidies, he should get tough with the people he’s actually competing against for the Republican nomination.

The poll does do one good thing for Pawlenty – it lowers his expectations for the Ames Straw Poll.  The only problem with that is that Ames is now a life or death scenario for the Pawlenty campaign.  Even though he’s not the frontrunner in Iowa, he needs a big win, or his campaign is going to look and end much like Elizabeth Dole’s did in 1999 – after Ames.

Photo by Dave Davidson

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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