Tim Pawlenty is not going to be president, and it's all his fault.
Over the weekend, T-Paw's campaign ended, as it started, with a whimper. Since he officially declared his candidacy in March, Pawlenty's campaign for president has been a roller coaster ride -- but some sort of strange, terrifying roller coaster that never goes up, starting at ground level and plunging at high speed deep into the darkness until it runs off the rails, leaving only a few survivors and one dead reputation.
City Pages took a look back at the campaign that wasn't, and counted down Pawlenty's biggest mistakes along the way.
No. 1. Running for president
When Pawlenty announced he was running for the Republican nomination, many conservative voters had the same, pointed question: "Who?" Even though he was the first major Republican politician to officially announce his candidacy, Pawlenty's name recognition was horrendously low. In March, just after he'd announced he was running, a Gallup poll found that only 41 percent of Republican-leaning voters recognized Pawlenty's name. Even on Saturday, in the Ames Straw poll that officially killed his campaign, most Pawlenty voters just wrote "the white guy who's not a cranky old guy or a Mormon."
No. 2. Being from Minnesota
It seems like Minnesotans just aren't very good at this whole national campaign thing. In 1968, Vice President Hubert Humphrey lost an election to that lovable juggernaut, Richard Nixon. Then in 1984, former Vice President Walter Mondale got about 10 votes, total, losing to Ronald Reagan 525-13 in the Electoral College. These lessons seem to prove that Minnesotans should just stick to being vice president, but, for the moment, T-Paw says he's not interested.
No. 3. Not raising enough money
Pawlenty raised about $4.5 million last quarter, which doesn't sound so bad until you think about the $18.3 million Mitt Romney raised. After announcing she was running, Michele Bachmann pulled in $3.6 in presidential fundraising in about three weeks. And all of those numbers sound pathetic when compared to the $48 million Barack Obama banked last quarter.
No. 4 Spending all his money
Pawlenty didn't have a whole lot to spend, and he blew through it pretty quickly. By last week, he wasn't running any more of his campaign ads on Iowa TV, a sure sign that he'd run out of cash. Pawlenty dropped big bills on fancy hotels, a sweet campaign bus, and an infamous $38 pig-out session at McDonald's. Worst of all, he paid a lot of people to advise him on how to raise and spend money. Their advice should've been, "Stop paying me."
No. 5 Ridiculous campaign ads
Pawlenty rolled out the most audacious presidential ad campaign since Lyndon Johnson told America Barry Goldwater was going to drop a nuclear bomb on a little girl. In T-Paw's ads, cameras soared above the American plains, the United States won a lot of Olympic gold medals, and Pawlenty said dramatic things while too close to the camera. Now those ads are Pawlenty's to cherish, giving him the most awesome home movies in America.
No. 6 Hiring Nick Ayers
Nick Ayers' fall from grace was swift and devastating. At the time he was hired, Ayers looked like the hot young genius in the Republican party. Then it came out that Ayers had a pretty bad DWI arrest a few years back, during which he tried to whine and schmooze his way out of the consequences. Then his fellow flacks said he was "probably the most hated among the political operative set." Then there's the fact that from the moment Ayers joined the Pawlenty campaign, it ran further and further into the ground. Don't be surprised if he leaves this little stint off his resume.
No. 7 Too much hockey talk
Tim Pawlenty loves hockey a lot. America doesn't. Throughout his campaign, T-Paw made reference to his hockey career, which ended with him as a role player on the high school junior varsity team. He also used clips from the "Miracle on Ice" hockey game in a campaign ad that -- oops! -- nearly got him sued, because he didn't ask permission. Finally, there was the T-PAW hockey jersey, which for some reason never caught on.
No. 8 Saying mean things about Michele Bachmann
Pawlenty decided there could be only one Minnesotan in the race, and did everything he could to torpedo Michele Bachmann's nascent campaign. He repeatedly took shots at Bachmann's shoddy record of achievement, describing her achievements in Congress as "nonexistent." At last week's debate, the two got into a back-and-forth snap-fest, with Pawlenty finally saying, "If that's your view of effective leadership with results, please stop, you're killin' us." You picked the wrong person to pick on, Pawlenty.
No. 9 Not saying mean things about Mitt Romney
Surely, this should've been T-Paw's target. Romney and Pawlenty occupy mostly the same space in voters' eyes: Dark-haired white guy in a suit, governor of a liberal state, mixed record of achievements. Pawlenty tried to coin the phrase "Obamneycare" and pin Barack Obama's overhaul of the healthcare system on Romney. But when he got the chance to throw it in Romney's face, Pawlenty blanched, presumably leaving all sorts of other corny phrases in his back pocket.
No. 10 Quitting
It's much too early, Tim. Pawlenty is by far the fastest campaign withdrawal of anyone who finished so well in the Ames Straw Poll: The next-fastest quitting of a third-place finisher came in 1999, when Elizabeth Dole pulled out 67 days after the poll, according to Eric Ostermeier of Smart Politics. Pawlenty waited all of about 12 hours to quit. Besides, the Ames Straw Poll has been very, very wrong before. In 2007, John McCain finished 10th there, with less than 1 percent of the total votes, needing a shocking comeback... in order to get crushed by Barack Obama.
And surely, that is the saddest thing about Pawlenty leaving the race: Minnesotans will never get to see him square off with President Obama. By quitting, he's depriving all of Minnesota the honor of looking at a debate stage in the fall of 2012, staring into Pawlenty's chestnut eyes, and wondering, "Who's that?"