Tim Pawlenty. Dave Weigel provides a solid piece on him:
This is seriously unfair to Pawlenty, but you can understand what his party’s thinking. If prospective candidates were universities, and the Republican primary voter were a high-school senior applying to college, then Pawlenty would be the safety school. A bland, solid Midwestern land-grant university. The problem with a safety school, of course, is that no one’s in a hurry to RSVP “yes” to it. David Frum, who occasionally predicts that Pawlenty will win the nomination, puts it another way: “Predicting Pawlenty feels like reaching the wrong answer on a math exam. You do the calculation and you arrive at the answer, Pawlenty. You think: That can’t be right.”
This could be a similar issue with Gary Johnson’s campaign. How much do these two need to fire up the respective GOP and Independent bases to get the rousing support they need to compete?
Weigel also compares Pawlenty to Palin/Romney:
Why is Pawlenty such a hard sell to Republicans? It may be a matter of branding. Whatever a candidate seems to be, people try to find it in his speeches. Mitt Romney is branded as a guy who will say anything, so his speeches are combed for evidence of flip-flops. Sarah Palin is branded as an angry mom who’ll say anything and reaches the boiling point after the most minor insult; her speeches, tweets, and Facebook notes are read like the Kabbalah for more proof of the theory.
Daniel Larison sees shades of Mike Huckabee when he sees Pawlenty (as well as attributes possibly anathema or below par for the GOP base):
Pawlenty is a compromise candidate in a party that is largely tired of having to settle for what they can get. The few things that distinguish him and make him somewhat interesting to some conservatives, such as his working-class background and conversion to evangelical Protestanism, are things that make him seem to be just enough of a working-class Huckabee-like populist to give some Republicans pause. This means that people with money are probably going to be disinclined to give some of that money to him just as they were unwilling to support Huckabee financially.
Meanwhile, Pawlenty’s actual record is so reliably and generically mainstream Republican that he appears merely adequate rather than exciting.