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Conservative columnist: Pawlenty vying for title of ‘least disliked’ in GOP 2012 field

WASHINGTON — Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg picks up on a theme developing around Tim Pawlenty’s (likely) presidential bid: He might not be the favorite of many as the 2012 race begins, but may emerge as a safer (thus better) choice than some of the frontrunners with far higher negative ratings than he has.

It’s something I first heard at the 2010 CPAC convention, when almost every grassroots activist I talked to who heard Pawlenty speak said a) that they liked him and b) that he’d be a great VP to their candidate of choice. There are many names for the guy who’s everyone’s number two: Consensus candidate, Plan B, most electable, or, as Goldberg puts it, “least disliked.”

Sayeth Goldberg, as he assessed the GOP field for National Review:

That leaves us with a top tier of five front-runners: Romney, Palin, Gingrich, Pawlenty, and Daniels. Romney is the organizational front-runner; Daniels is the first pick of wonks and D. C. eggheads; Palin probably has the most devoted following among actual voters; Gingrich will dominate the debates; and Pawlenty (vying with Daniels) is the least disliked.

And lest one think that strategy isn’t one that could work, allow me to mention a few names: John Kerry, George W. Bush (in 2000) and Bob Dole. Each secured their respective presidential nomination by being the most acceptable of the field, despite not having the most energetic base support.

Goldberg’s analysis of the emerging field is worth reading in full here. The Pawlenty bits are on page two.

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