Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said on CNN the other day that “I’m running for president.” Of course, in the strange world of today’s presidential politics, that doesn’t mean he’s officially running. His campaign said that it was not an official announcement -- even though Pawlenty has a presidential exploratory committee, has hired presidential campaign consultants, and even now has a pollster to help him run his non-official campaign.
Where does Pawlenty stand at this point? What type of chance does he have of winning the GOP presidential nomination?
One can certainly focus on his very low position in various trial heat polls among Republicans. He received a scant 3% of the vote of Republicans in Gallup’s latest such poll, conducted March 18-22.
But at this point, the results of this type of trial heat ballot mainly reflect Pawlenty’s lack of name recognition (more on this below).
We think a more informative way to analyze Pawlenty's position at this stage of the nascent presidential campaign is to gauge his recognition and positive intensity among Republicans as separate entities.
Pawlenty is recognized by well less than half of Republicans -- 41% to be exact in Gallup’s last two-week aggregate (March 28-April 3). When we first measured Pawlenty’s name identification among Republicans in early January, it was 39%. So, despite the establishment of his exploratory committee and the press coverage that resulted, Gov. Pawlenty is not much better known among Republicans nationwide now than he was three months ago.
Pawlenty’s Positive Intensity Score is now 15.
Keep in mind that the Positive Intensity Score measures the percent of Republicans who recognize a politician and who have a strongly favorable opinion of him or her, minus the percent with a strongly unfavorable opinion.
At the moment, Pawlenty's Positive Intensity Score is tied with those of Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich. He is a point or two behind Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney. All of these possible contenders are behind Michele Bachmann, with a Positive Intensity Score of 20, and way behind the leader, Mike Huckabee, with a Positive Intensity Score of 27.
Here’s a graphic representation of what the field looks like:
So Pawlenty is not too badly situated at this point in time -- given his handicap of low name identification. It's hard to win a presidential nomination if less than half of your party's rank-and-file identifiers know who you are. If Pawlenty does succeed in becoming better known, and continues to keep the same level of positive intensity among Republicans, he would be competitive with some of his potential challengers who are now much better known.