Politico: Pawlenty made one of worst political blunders of 2011

Tim Pawlenty's ill-fated decision to pin the fortunes of his Presidential bid on the Ames straw poll was one of the top ten political blunders of this year, according to Alexander Burns of Politico.

"Pawlenty advisers now reflect with some frustration that if they had treated the Ames contest for what it is -- a circus-like state party fundraiser -- their guy might still have had a shot at the big time," Burns writes. 

While it was just last spring, it seems like eons have passed since T-Paw looked like a legit contender for the Republican nomination.

On the day he formally launched his campaign in late May, Gerald F. Seib of the Wall Street Journal cited the former Governor's "tea-party-friendly populist economics" and Christian credentials in opining that "the T-Paw moment has arrived."

Along with Donald Trump, Pawlenty was one of the early anybody-but-Romney candidates who got a few news cycles worth of consideration as President Obama's possible 2012 foe. But a perception of blandness coupled with a troubling gaffe in an early debate killed that early momentum.

As spring turned to summer and T-Paw's poll numbers stagnated, his campaign decided to go all-in in Ames and view the straw poll as a referendum on his candidacy. After receiving less than 14 percent of the vote and finishing behind Ron Paul and then anybody-but-Romney flavor-of-the-month candidate Michele Bachmann, Pawlenty called it quits.

But as Mitt Romney continued to struggle to gain traction and Rick Perry and Herman Cain flamed out during their turns as flavor of the month this fall, some, including Pawlenty himself, began to believe his mid-August withdrawal may have been premature.

At an October event unveiling his portrait at the Capitol, the former Governor said "we went for a more dramatic piece of progress in that early Iowa contest, and I think we should have made a different decision."

Pawlenty in 2016? Stranger things have happened -- like Newt Gingrich, once left for political death, dominating the polls in South Carolina and Georgia. So maybe T-Paw will have additional chances to crack Politico's list in future years.

To read the full list, click here.

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