When he was a rooky governor, the Democratic Legislature gave Pawlenty a balanced budget without tax increases -- and he crowed that the legislators had agreed to "pass all our bills." In his memoirs, Pawlenty writes, "I didn't mean for it to come off as gloating. But it did." Democratic lawmakers felt steamrolled and "resolved to never let me win again. Often lessons are learned in defeat. But this one I learned in victory. A measure of grace is always essential."
In the negative column, Pawlenty may be too nice. In June, T-Paw tied rival Mitt Romney's universal Massachusetts health care plan to Obamacare -- he dubbed it "Obamneycare" -- yet failed to press Romney on his record during a CNN debate. "He'd be the first to tell you that the CNN debate was a missed opportunity," Conant responded.
Well, there may not be a lot of missed opportunities in the future. Texas Gov. Rick Perry may jump into the race, where he instantly could become the alternative to front-runner Romney.
"We've seen this movie a couple of times" before, said Conant -- rattling off such names as Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Donald Trump and Fox News host Mike Huckabee. They all floated their names but didn't jump into the drink. "And now we have Perry."