The PJ Tatler

Traction: Pawlenty ties Obama in Minnesota

Could a reliably blue state go red in 2012? Tim Pawlenty, former MN gov, may put that state in play if he’s on the ticket.

The national stage helped former Governor Tim Pawlenty by one measure, but not by others. Compared to 3 weeks ago, when Pawlenty announced he was running for president, Pawlenty’s Net Favorability in MN is unchanged at Minus 3. Today, 53% see Pawlenty as qualified to be president, largely unchanged from the 55% who saw Pawlenty as qualified 3 weeks ago. But in a head-to-head, Pawlenty and Obama tie today. 3 weeks ago, Obama carried the state by 5 points.

Though MN elected Pawlenty as governor twice, it has been very very blue at the presidential level since 1972. They’re the only state that failed to hand Ronald Reagan its electoral votes in both 1980 and 1984. One of Pawlenty’s strongest arguments for 2012 is that he would bring some blue states into the game, and this poll backs that argument up. Unlike fellow Minnesotan Michele Bachmann, Pawlenty has also proven that he can win statewide. The same poll has Bachmann still underwater in MN.

This is among the reasons to retain some skepticism of any candidate who has not run and won a statewide contest. Statewide elections are more analogous to national elections than district elections, where gerrymandering narrows electorates considerably. To take an extreme example to make the point, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee easily wins her Houston district year after year after year. But there is absolutely no evidence of support for her in any statewide run for anything in Texas, let alone a national contest. Even candidates who have run and won statewide, Jon Hunstman and Rick Santorum, are showing some inexperience lately, probably because both have been out of the electoral game for a year or two.