The question is whether he and his team have been spooked by the influence of the most conservative wing of his party in presidential nominating politics. His advisers said no. “These are all unique circumstances in time, and they don’t represent a strategic or calibrated effort to move to the right,” one adviser said.

Still, there is something Romney-esque in all this. Four years ago, Romney lurched to the right in preparation for his presidential candidacy. He did it on social issues, where his prior support for abortion and gay rights left him vulnerable on his right flank. Pawlenty has a consistent record of opposition to abortion and gay marriage. In his case, he appears to be catering to the populist anger on the right, which is challenging the party establishment and attacking Obama in sometimes extreme language.

The real risk for Pawlenty, as Romney learned in his unsuccessful 2008 campaign, is losing his true voice and his authenticity. Once a candidate starts down that road, it can be hard to pull back.