"Tim Pawlenty could be forgiven for thinking his fellow Republicans don't give him the respect he deserves," says Jill Lawrence at National Journal. Among the "major humiliations" the former Minnesota governor has endured are being passed over by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 veepstakes, despite being tipped as the favorite, and having his 2012 presidential ambitions quashed by Iowa GOP voters, who picked Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas) over him in the ballyhooed Ames Straw Poll. But all that may change: Pawlenty has found new life as "an energetic and highly visible" surrogate for Mitt Romney, and is once again "coming into focus as a short-lister" for the No. 2 spot on the GOP ticket. After his successful audition last weekend, has Pawlenty now jumped to the top of Romney's VP list?
Pawlenty has become the clear favorite: Only Romney and his VP search chief, Beth Myers, "know the nitty-gritty details of where things are headed," say Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei at Politico, but Pawlenty sure looks like the top pick. In Boston, he's now revered as Romney's "most effective — and well-liked — surrogate," and his easy rapport with blue-collar voters makes him "strong where Romney is weak." He's also the only contender who meets all of Romney's big "litmus tests": A safe pick, boring but not "too boring," loyal, and sharing a good personal chemistry with the Romneys.
"Pawlenty stock soars in Romney-world"
No. He's doomed to be an also-ran: Those are all great attributes, and explain why Pawlenty was on "McCain's mentioned-but-not-picked list," says Andrew Rosenthal at The New York Times. That's where he'll end up with Romney, too. Much like Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the "extremely dull" Pawlenty is "one of those stalwart and seemingly not crazy Midwesterners that Republicans like to consider for national office but never select." Team Romney is name-dropping him so we'll all know they're taking the VP search seriously.
"It's VP mentioning season for the GOP"
It looks like it's either Pawlenty or Portman: Romney clearly wants his running mate to be a non-story, so that the story remains the bad economy, says Allahpundit at Hot Air. Throw in his other key requirement — that the VP pick be ready to take over as president — and "that leaves Portman, Pawlenty, and maybe [Louisiana Gov. Bobby] Jindal." Jindal's too young, though, and while I still think Portman's the top choice, he was George W. Bush's former budget chief, which could make him "a major liability" on Romney's key issue. If "Romney's VP credo" really is "first do no harm," Pawlenty will probably be his man.
"So, is the VP race down to Portman and Pawlenty?"