Pawlenty's the frontrunner

One way to arrive at Pawlenty is through process of elimination. I’ve argued many times that Mitt Romney is fatally wounded. If he lacked any serious competition at all, he could possibly—maybe—consolidate establishment support and fend off attacks on his health care plan. But, in a contested race, he simply has no answer for attacks on Romneycare. Romney is finished…

Then there’s Daniels. He has the advantage of strong elite connections, through his service in the Bush administration, and a reasonably compelling case to make to the base. But he has severe weaknesses that have gone largely unnoticed. Social conservatives hate his call for a truce on social issues. Economic conservatives hate his humane health care reform. As a short, bald former pharmaceutical executive and Bush administration official, Daniels is not a whole lot more electable than Barbour. Plus, he sounds unlikely to run, anyway.

That leaves Pawlenty. He has demonstrated political talent, having worked his way up the party hierarchy and winning the governorship in blue-ish Minnesota twice. His record contains only one major ideological deviation—support for cap-and-trade, at a time when cap-and-trade seemed to be emerging as a consensus GOP position, which he has thoroughly recanted. Because cap-and-trade is dead with no prospect of revival, I think Pawlenty could survive this apostasy. Ramesh Ponnuru’s cover story in National Review makes a persuasive case for Pawlenty as the strongest combination of conservatism and electability.