A story in the Washington Post notes that Tim Pawlenty has two upcoming chances to overturn the growing perception that his support in Iowa is waning:
- Thursday’s debate with Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum; U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas; businessman Herman Cain and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.
- Saturday’s Straw Poll in Ames.
Says the story:
As a critical week begins in the Republican presidential contest, the broadening perception in Iowa is that enthusiasm for Pawlenty has sagged recently, imperiling his candidacy, while Bachmann has soared to front-runner status here. There are growing doubts as well about the Pawlenty campaign’s organizational efforts, once regarded as its chief strength.
The Ames poll will be crucial:
Anything less than a second-place finish for Pawlenty may have a dire effect on his ability to woo contributors for a campaign having difficulty securing big-ticket donors. And although some of Pawlenty’s backers think he can still win here, others do not rule out the possibility that he could sink to third or fourth place, behind Paul, Cain or Santorum.
His decline in Iowa has less to do with any policy stance than merely a hardening perception among detractors — and a worry among supporters — that he is not as charismatic or rhetorically tough as some of his rivals, particularly Bachmann.
The article describes how Pawlenty brags to the reporter about his hockey fighting past:
Pawlenty is capable of exhibiting fire, too, though seldom publicly. By the time he had reached that library in Sioux City, the questions about his low-key style had ignited his irritation. Outside as the sun fell, with his small crowd gone and the day behind him, his frustrations poured out.
“I say this a little tongue-in-cheek,” he said soberly, his 6-foot-3-inch frame ramrod-straight. “I’m an old hockey player. I’ve probably been in more fights than all these candidates in the race.”
He began tapping a reporter’s chest with a forefinger, not pugnaciously, perhaps not even consciously. He was simply trying to make a point. He settled on the number of fights he has had.
“Probably not more than a half-dozen. But I tell you: If you asked the other candidates how many times they’ve been punched in the face and how many times they’ve been in fights?” He paused. “I didn’t win them all. But, seriously, if you go into a bar, the loudest person is almost never the toughest. They’re usually just the loudest and drunkest. … I’m serious about that.”
He would not attach a name to the loudest person in the bar, not Bachmann’s or any other rival’s, back to being as oblique as ever. But he was still stewing. And that made him think again of Romney. He repeated that he will not squander the opportunity to engage the front-runner, if the opportunity again presents itself. Romney will be standing just a few feet away at Thursday’s debate — but so, too, will Bachmann, auditioning like Pawlenty for the role of his chief alternative.