Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty Viable GOP Presidential Candidates

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Two presidential candidates for the 2012 Republican primary election season have come forward as viable choices for GOP voters. Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich, both former politicians, have stated they have goals to run for president in 2012 to try to defeat President Barack Obama as he seeks a second term.

Here's a look at how the two men may do in primaries in early 2012.

Tim Pawlenty

Pawlenty became the first major candidate in 2011 to announce his intentions to run for president. His candidacy was announced on his website March 22, when he stated he would start exploring his options in New Hampshire, the first state to have a presidential primary during the election.

"Tim Pawlenty is investing in New Hampshire. Now that he's announced an exploratory committee, the former Minnesota governor is gathering a state leadership team to begin recruiting volunteers and supporters," according to his website March 24.

Pawlenty has also announced his financial team to try to come up with necessary funds for a long, protracted national campaign, part of the reason why he has declared his candidacy so early. Politico reports fundraising will be a challenge since the former Minnesota governor has never run a national race before. A lack of any pre-existing networks will hurt Pawlenty now, but if he gets his name out to more voters, that could change rapidly with his new hires.

CBS News reports he gave a rousing speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in mid-February 2011 in Washington, D.C., in which Pawlenty criticized President Obama's policies several times. Even with his speech, current polls by Pew Research in Iowa among conservatives barely mention Pawlenty at all. He received fewer than 10 percentage points as compared to other potential opponents, such as Mike Huckabbee and Mitt Romney, when the poll was released March 28.

Newt Gingrich

Gingrich hasn't formally declared his intentions to run for president but media outlets such as Fox News keep reporting he is going to run. One reason is the former Speaker of the House was, at one time, a Fox News contributor until he was let go in early March because he was supposedly going to declare his candidacy.

Gingrich has said he's already looked into early-voting states for a possible run at the White House. He recently made trips to both New Hampshire and Iowa to seek out support.

"The water's pretty warm. My hope is that within a month, we'll be swimming pretty rapidly," USA Today quoted Gingrich March 28.

His new website, NewtExplore2012.com, is strictly a fundraising website where supporters can donate. He hasn't specifically said he'll run, but with a fundraising website and trips to two key states, it certainly appears Gingrich is ready. The Los Angeles Times reports Gingrich raised around $1 million in 2010: fairly good for a non-presidential election year.

Unlike Pawlenty, Gingrich has run savvy campaigns before when he was elected to the House of Representatives from Georgia. As Speaker of the House, he oversaw some of the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton. He hasn't run a national race, but his name is recognized from 15 years ago.

The same Pew Research poll done in Iowa claims GOP voters liked Gingrich about 11 percent of the time, lagging behind Romney, Huckabee and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. He still has some ground to make up, but voters will still know his name from the past.

Who Wins?

Between Gingrich and Pawlenty, the former Speaker of the House clearly has an advantage with name recognition, past clout with Republicans and a savvy campaign structure. His ties to Washington can only help him in the long fight for a GOP nomination. Pawlenty will have one advantage over Gingrich-- he is younger and may bring more energy to the race. Pawlenty is 50 versus Gingrich's 67.

Gingrich isn't an upstart and he's very smart and knows how to win. If it comes down to him versus Huckabee or Romney, all three men will have a hard time convincing GOP voters which one to vote for. As in every election, whoever sways more independent voters will win, and Gingrich's experience over other candidates will lend to that aspect of the 2012 presidential election.

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