Pawlenty has changed from a charming, reliable local to a flat national figure since he decided to run for president, political allies told the Huffington Post.
Some blame his new team of advisers for robbing Pawlenty of the energy and edge that won him two elections in Minnesota. Whatever it is, now he doesn't look like someone who'll be winning anything, anywhere.[jump] Vicki Tigwell, a longtime political player in Minnesota who grew up with Pawlenty in South St. Paul, told HuffPo she doesn't know why, or even how, Pawlenty's changed.
"The charisma that engaged him with Minnesotans doesn't seem to be connecting at the same level," Tigwell said. "I don't know if it's the national stage. I don't get it."The story tracks the rise and fall of Pawlenty's toughness, from the feisty little junior high kid who wrote a letter to the newspaper calling for the Superintendent to take pay cut during a teachers' strike, to the dud who's in sixth place among Iowa Republicans in a recent Des Moise Register poll.
The most recent evidence: A poll this week out of New Hampshire showing that he's still stuck in the GOP basement, and FEC reports showing that the wheels seem to have fallen off his fund-raising machine.
That he can't even get juice in his neighboring state might spell doom for the campaign, especially since Pawlenty seems to have put all of his eggs in the Iowa basket.
Former DFL House Minority leader Tom Pugh, who battled with Pawlenty in the legislature and on the hockey rink, said he's noticed that Pawlenty's not fighting like he used to.
"I don't know if he's not enjoying this, if he's tired, if people are telling him to be a little bit more bland and gray and that the flakes will somehow disappear in the meantime," Pugh said.Most damning, though, is the disappointment coming from T-Paw's close friends. Dennis O'Brien, a lawyer who hired Pawlenty out of the University of Minnesota Law School and worked with him for two decades, says Pawlenty is being handcuffed by the team of people he's paying to give him advice.
"His handlers, I think, have told him to cut out some of the dry humor because half the room is falling apart and the other half is pissed off because they don't get it," O'Brien said.Maybe the release of a campaign ad bragging about shutting down the state government is the first step in reclaiming that lost mojo. If Pawlenty wants to win Iowa and have a shot at the Republican nomination, those who've fought with him and against him for years think it's time for him to take off the mask and drop the gloves.