At almost precisely the minute that Michele Bachmann was declaring her presidential candidacy in Iowa at the end of June, I was interviewing Tim Pawlenty in a borrowed conference room in a midtown Manhattan financial firm. For much of our interview, the long-faced, dark-haired-flecked-with-gray, 50-year-old Pawlenty sat tall in his chair, rarely fidgeting, his hand gestures confined to occasionally pointing for emphasis. Though he maintained steady eye contact, many of his answers were campaign boilerplate, and his mind sometimes seemed miles away.
TNR writer Walter Shapiro recently spent a month on the Tim Pawlenty beat, reporting a profile for the latest issue of the magazine. Shapiro found an ambitious, meticulous, details-oriented politician who is everything the Republican electorate says they want in a nominee, but who is failing to gain traction: PAWLENTY HAS ALWAYS displayed a striver’s zeal for advance planning and perfectionism—and that may well be his defining trait as a politician. “He is a great strategist,” says Steve Sviggum, who became house speaker at the same time Pawlenty was elevated to majority leader.