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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