As many of you may recall, I am not the biggest fan of Mitt Romney. Contra streiff, I don't really expect Romney to be the last man standing in the 2012 primaries, even if they go relatively badly in terms of who gets in and who gets their act together once in. Romneycare, atop his many other defects, is too big a problem for too many voters.
But there is a candidate in the race who represents, to me, the lowest common denominator we can all learn to live with, and that's Tim Pawlenty. Ramesh Ponnuru, whose opinion is never easily dismissed, makes the case for Pawlenty at length in the March 7, 2011 issue of National Review, and I urge you to read it.
As Ramesh notes, Pawlenty is pretty dull (check out the clips of him I collected in profiling him as a VP candidate in 2008), and runs the risk of coming off as insincere as Romney if he tries to cure that by trying to be someone or something he's not. Not for nothing do I refer to Pawlenty as Governor Soggy Wonder Bread. In many ways he's McCain without the interesting parts, for good and ill - minimally acceptable on all the big issues. And while that was a sad excuse for a candidate in 2008, it may be a very different story in 2012 if Obama is still unpopular and ends up banking entirely on his ability to discredit his opponent to win.
Fundamentally, Pawlenty is the one guy in the field with no potentially fatal weaknesses. He's the most experienced candidate available - two terms as a blue-state governor and four years as a state house majority leader make him the rare presidential candidate experienced as a chief executive and a legislative leader. The media will try, but he can't be effectively caricatured the way Palin, Barbour and Romney can. And like Romney, he has one crucial thing the rest of the field has yet to prove - he wants the job, badly, and is effectively already running.
I'm not trying to sell anybody just now on Pawlenty - as I'll explain in a lengthier post on Palin I keep meaning to finish writing, I don't think we should be committing ourselves to anybody in the field just yet, and I intend to keep hunting for a better alternative than Pawlenty. But we can most assuredly do worse, and if we're stuck (as in 2008) with a last-man-standing least-of-evils anybody-but-Obama candidate, I think Pawlenty will prove to be a far more plausible choice than Romney or Huckabee or Jon Huntsman. I certainly want him to stick in the race so we have that option available.
So, just in case, save me a seat on the blandwagon.