Since Mitt Romney is skipping the event and Rick Perry isn't yet officially in the race, Pawlenty is the only mainstream GOP candidate competing—and if he finishes as the runner-up to a less-mainstream candidate with potentially shaky national appeal, like Michele Bachmann or Ron Paul, donors aren't likely to be impressed. And Pawlenty needs to keep his donors and win over more—he's struggled to raise money—if he wants to make a real bid for the presidency. He's "got to have something to crow about," says a longtime Iowa columnist, adding that if he doesn't, it "could knock him out of the race."
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