Friends wonder: What happened to the dynamic Tim Pawlenty we know and love?

There is a dynamic presence to Pawlenty, a man almost universally described as the “smartest in the room.” But it has remained hidden from view, replaced by a more uncertain, uncomfortable, cautious candidate. Unlocking the old Tim Pawlenty is key to whether he can recover politically and have any chance of staging a comeback.

Even if the authentic Pawlenty were to emerge, some said that would not be enough for the current tumultuous political moment.

“This is just one of those unreal times in our history where people who are as solid as Tim probably aren’t going to be left standing after the money guys weigh in,” said Dave Durenberger, the former Minnesota senator who hired Pawlenty to be the political director of his 1988 re-election campaign.

Pawlenty, he added, “may not exactly have been made for these times.”