Paul: Pawlenty’s primary problem

Here’s how a one-time GOP dark horse could buck the odds.

Eric Nehring

Following the establishment of Tim PawlentyâÄôs 2012 presidential exploratory committee, political pundits rightly pointed out the profile disparity that separates T-Paw from more familiar GOP prospects. However, while panelists routinely pit Pawlenty against household favorites Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, such analysis overlooks the biggest potential obstacle facing the former Minnesota governor: 12-term Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.

Though Paul has yet to officially announce a 2012 run, his steady rise in popularity proves that the libertarian-leaning conservative from Lake Jackson could be a legitimate contender throughout the Republican primaries.

Thanks in part to the grassroots efforts of his nonprofit lobbyist organization, the Campaign for Liberty, Paul added $3 million to his political war chest in the first quarter of 2011 alone âÄî greatly surpassing RomneyâÄôs $1.9 million haul.

WhatâÄôs more, the announcement of PaulâÄôs blue ribbon finish at this yearâÄôs Conservative Political Action Conference ignited the crowd into a bifurcated frenzy. The resulting rift between PaulâÄôs supporters and those backing establishment candidates suggests that the old guard rank-and-file may well be facing another Barry Goldwater-style conservative crusade.

While many are quick to challenge PaulâÄôs electability, his vocal opposition to the Federal Reserve, the IRS and nearly every department of the federal government has drawn support from across the political spectrum. A function of recent success, Paul has transformed from a one-time Republican dark horse into a finely tuned, 75-year old thoroughbred.

As Pawlenty begins sizing up the field of contenders jockeying for the highly coveted 2012 republican nomination, he would do well to recognize the threat posed by the libertarian from Lake Jackson. A decision to overlook Paul in the race to Washington could leave Pawlenty scratching his head at home in St. Paul come 2012.

 

Eric Nehring welcomes comments at [email protected].