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Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty

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Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty
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Upside: Pawlenty will be 52 in 2012, which means he'll have youth on his side. His role as governor of Minnesota means he should be able to deliver a key swing state that has historically been a tossup for Republicans. As national co-chairman of John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008, Pawlenty is familiar with presidential politics and will have no trouble adapting to life on the trail. He is intelligent enough to have learned from the GOP's mistakes in 2008, and likely will be able to articulate a meaningful message to American voters. To many conservatives, Pawlenty’s credentials are credible indeed, and he therefore will be able to be a solid contender for the Oval Office in 2012.

Downside: Even with its governor on the ticket, Minnesota may be out of Pawlenty's grasp. Albeit by slim margins, the state voted for Obama in 2008, for Kerry in 2004, and for Gore in 2000. Pawlenty is a popular Republican in political circles, but he still lacks the national name recognition necessary to running a successful presidential campaign. Like other young potential presidential candidates possibilities, Pawlenty's relative lack of experience could be a liability when facing down seasoned vets like Romney and Huckabee. Finally, Pawlenty may suffer from a downside which every conservative will face in 2012 -- his conservative appeal may not resonate with crossover Democrats and independent voters.
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