Pawlenty’s wooing of Iowans is a classic approach for a politician in his position — an established contender but without the national profile of Sarah Palin or the money of Mitt Romney. Jimmy Carter was the first to win Iowa this way, and seemingly every four years since, someone tries it anew, some to great effect and some to hardly any at all. The question this time is whether it will pay off for Pawlenty, with a win in the state’s February caucus or with a strong-enough second- or third-place showing to catapult a relative unknown to the nomination.
In the early going, Pawlenty has started to win over a number of influential officials. Local college professor Tim Rylaarsdam, a former Sioux County Republican chairman, says he feels closer to supporting Pawlenty than to anyone else. Another past county party chairman says several influential local Republicans are leaning toward Pawlenty. The current county party chair says that if forced to choose today, no one would rank above Pawlenty.
But all this qualified praise for Pawlenty betrays a muted leeriness: Few in Sioux have been deeply turned on by anyone, including him. Potential backers are “leaning” his way, or “getting close.” In a largely empty field, Pawlenty has made an impression, but that’s all for now.
A couple of weeks ago, he did a Tea Party rally in Des Moines: