The national punditry, after weeks of undeserved buildup of the man, now seems to be braying with one voice: "Pawlenty blew it." "He disappointed."
Hello? From my perch as a conservative Minnesotan, Pawlenty was the same Pawlenty I've always seen. A lawyer, not a politician, modeling the stoic character of the people of his region. Careful in language, not predisposed towards confrontation. Passionless.
Why do you think the jokes about him all have something to do with making voters fall asleep? It's a caricature, of course, but caricatures usually take hold because they're rooted in fact.
Tim Pawlenty has never been a conservative firebrand. The Mediaocracy was simply working overtime in the run-up to the debate to cast him as a real possibility because he is "John McCain Lite" - a Republican who might be acceptable to THEM, and therefore someone who should be the Republican candidate.
That, and he's a "fresh face" upon whom the Talkarzzi can project their non-confrontational sensibilities.
He's also someone who would likely lose to Obama. It may seem unbelievable that Pawlenty could be vanquished by a man with ice water in his veins, but it's true. Tim is an example of the "pale pastels" side of the party that Ronald Reagan exhorted us to eschew in favor of a "banner of bold colors."
No, Tim was Tim... it's just that he stood toe-to-toe with some pros for the first time, and to some eyes came up wanting. But the problem was with the observers' eyesight... not with the man.
P.S. It seems the same phenomenon is now working in reverse for Michele Bachmann. She hasn't changed, only the accuracy and understanding of the people really "seeing her" for the first time.