The pressure is on Tim Pawlenty!
That, at least, is what some pundits are saying about tonight’s Fox News debate—you know, the one that most of the big-time candidates are ducking.
No Mitt Romney, who’s laying awfully low for a supposed front-runner. No Newt Gingrich, who’s still dealing with untangling his business affairs. No Michele Bachmann, who seemed poised to jump in. No Mitch Daniels, who told an interviewer the other day that no sane person wants to run for president (and I have no reason to question his sanity).
Instead, Pawlenty will be up against the less-than-fearsome lineup of Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Gary Johnson. Not exactly Must See TV.
New York magazine has ridiculed the former governor of Minnesota for joining the “loser’s table.”
“Some might argue that Pawlenty is foolhardy to take the stage in South Carolina with this group,” says the Daily Caller. “He’ll be a natural target for the candidates looking to score the big sound bite that will boost their visibility and fundraising numbers.”
I’m not buying any of that. Pawlenty may be the only person on the stage in Greenville, S.C. with a serious shot at becoming president, but he doesn’t have much to lose.
The debate itself is likely to get little attention, so even if Pawlenty makes a mistake, it will be a blip. We’re still in spring training here.
Pawlenty isn’t well known, so beaming into the homes of Fox viewers, even while fencing with a pizza mogul (Cain) and an ex-governor who wants to legalize pot (Johnson),won’t hurt him.
He also gets to sharpen his skills for the later debates that actually will matter.
In short, it’s a low-risk affair for a serious candidate who needs exposure, and by June it will seem like a mere footnote. Maybe even by the weekend.
Josh Rogin reports on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s approval of a bill to arm the rebels.