Surprisingly, there is something interesting buried in this Tim Pawlenty story:
After a short-lived presidential bid of his own last year, Mr. Pawlenty is again being considered for the Republican ticket. His fate is in the hands of Mr. Romney, a rival-turned-friend, who is on the cusp of announcing his vice-presidential selection. Mr. Romney has reached a decision, his friends believe, and he may disclose it as soon as this week [bold mine-DL].
The Romney campaign had said that it might announce the VP selection earlier than usual. Normally, most campaigns in recent decades have waited until just before or during the convention to announce the candidate, so an announcement over a month before the convention would be remarkably early. There’s nothing that requires a campaign to wait. The benefit of waiting until just before the convention seems to be that it allows the campaign to maximize the positive coverage of both the announcement and the convention by putting them close together. Announcing earlier could conceivably have additional fundraising and campaigning benefits.
On the other hand, announcing the selection this early will leave that much more time for journalists to become bored with the VP nominee long before the convention (especially if Romney chooses someone as well-known and boring as Pawlenty). Any attempt to “change the subject” will probably be much more short-lived than the campaign wants. Most of Romney’s likely choices are more or less competent, but no one would call them exciting or inspiring. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be a drawback if the campaign hopes to use the VP selection to distract attention from Romney’s business and political record. Following the blatant and ridiculed attempt to use Rice’s name as a distraction, using the VP selection itself for a similar purpose will not be nearly as effective.
As for Pawlenty himself, what more is left to say? He narrowly won re-election thanks to a three-way gubernatorial race in which his main opponent self-destructed. If he hadn’t won that race, no one would have been considering him for the VP slot in 2008, and he wouldn’t have competed for the nomination this time. Like everything else about Pawlenty, his re-election victory was underwhelming.
There is a reason that Pawlenty underwhelms. As Sean Scallon said in his profile for the magazine a year ago, Pawlenty is the “man from nowhere”:
Pawlenty, like the proverbial five-star recruit, has a great deal of potential as a national politician, but there’s a reason his polling numbers are dismal—an explanation beyond simple lack of name recognition. In a new era where the search for authenticity dominates our political discourse, Pawlenty’s lack of it makes him a has-been before he ever was [bold mine-DL].
When it comes to Romney’s greatest weaknesses, foreign policy, Pawlenty has nothing that he can offer the ticket except his own experience of shamelessly pandering to national security hawks during his presidential run. Like Romney, he can reliably recite their talking points, and it’s a given that he hasn’t spend much time thinking about these issues. He is the least-qualified on foreign policy of the four most likely candidates, and it’s difficult to be less qualified on foreign policy than Paul Ryan.