Nate Silver charts 2012 contenders, puts Pawlenty in the middle
Nate Silver of the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight graphed the potential 2012 presidential contenders based on their insider/outsider status and their position on a moderate-to-conservative scale. Not surprisingly, Rep. Michele Bachmann took the conservative extreme. Tim Pawlenty, on the other hand, was rated smack in the middle of the graph. Silver notes that he had trouble ranking the enigma that is Minnesota’s former governor.
Bachmann was the most conservative except for former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, but she did have the strongest outsider-conservative rating due in part to her ability to promote herself and the Tea Party without toeing the official GOP line.
Silver said Pawlenty was difficult to chart.
“I had trouble placing him in any of the four quadrants,” Silver wrote. “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.”
It’s Pawlenty’s middle ground that appears to have kept his campaign from taking off.
“I have been skeptical about Mr. Pawlenty’s candidacy,” Silver noted, “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.”
Silver points to evidence that that may be exactly what Pawlenty is doing.
“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,” Silver added. “So does the fact that Mr. Pawlenty could plausibly position himself as conservative or moderate, insider or outsider, as the situation dictates.”
Here is Silver’s graph: