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A T-Paw surge? Pawlenty enjoys a big week

For months, supporters of Tim Pawlenty have waiting for his presidential bid to gain some steam. Not since the faux Rapture have so many people been disappointed to see someone fail to take off.

But there are signs that the developing GOP race could finally be witnessing some Pawlentum. The former Minnesota governor has had a good week.

This week, Pawlenty has seen:

  • Some positive indications in a new poll that showed him breaking into the double digits nationally
  • Praise from corporate titan Jack Welch, the former chairman and CEO of GE Corp.
  • The defection of  Newt Gingrich’s campaign co-chair, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, to the Pawlenty camp.
  • The news that Mitt Romney will not participate in the traditional Iowa Straw Poll.

It’s that last item that might be, in the end, the most important. Romney’s decision to skip the annual summer cattle-call wasn’t unexpected, and his camp undoubtedly feared that no matter how the former Massachusetts governor fared, the narrative that emerged would revolve around a conservative who either beat Romney outright or pulled close, as Mike Huckabee did in 2007. Either outcome would batter Romney’s status as the early-line favorite.
But his exit provides Pawlenty with an even better opportunity to define himself as the candidate who offers the best alternative to Romney. And should he be able to win the Straw Poll, it would solidify his standing as a top-tier threat.

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It was no wonder, then, why Pawlenty’s campaign, immediately after Romney’s plans to skip the event went public, released a statement making clear that he would be competing in the poll.

Pawlenty appears to have some newfound cause for optimism. A Public Policy Polling survey this week gave Pawlenty his strongest showing yet nationally. At 13%, Pawlenty came in just behind Romney and Sarah Palin.

At the same time, he earned some unsolicited praise from Welch, who during a CNN interview said Pawlenty and his tax plan had impressed him.

“Everything I see Tim Pawlenty say in the last month appeals to me. He’s not the jazziest guy in town. He’s not the most exciting,” Welch said. “But if you look at what he says and his vision for America and that plan he put out in the last 48 hours. Every time I see him on an interview, whether it be your show or somebody else’s, the guy makes sense.”

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That was followed by the sudden implosion of the campaign of Newt Gingrich, a key Pawlenty rival in Iowa. Six top aides walked out on Gingrich over differences in strategy Thursday. And soon thereafter, Pawlenty’s campaign announced that Sonny Perdue, the former governor of Gingrich’s home state of Georgia and the co-chair of Gingrich’s presdiential bid, was jumping to Pawlenty.

“Tim Pawlenty is a great man, he was a phenomenal governor, and he is the person I now believe stands the greatest chance of defeating President Obama,” Perdue said in statement. 

Interviewed on Fox News Channel Thursday night, Pawlenty said, “I think [Perdue] decided in light of where Newt’s campaign may be at, that this was a good time to do it.”

“It’s an affirmation of the momentum my campaign has,” he added.

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Pawlenty’s hot streak could be cooled in a hurry if Texas Gov. Rick Perry decides to jump into the race. Perry would hold similar appeal to conservatives, while also running on a record of job creation and budget-cutting as a governor.

Here’s Pawlenty on Fox News:

 


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