As of now, Tim Pawlenty is the "leading contender" to win the GOP nomination, writes Jonathan Chait in the New Republic. He gets there through the process of elimination: The winner will have to appeal both to the party's base and its elites, which rules out Palin, Gingrich, and Huckabee off the bat. Mitt Romney? He's sunk by Romneycare. Jon Huntsman's service with the Obama administration will doom him, and Haley Barbour is "clearly unelectable." Mitch Daniels is interesting, but he's made too many enemies among social and economic conservatives.
"That leaves Pawlenty," writes Chait. "He has demonstrated political talent, having worked his way up the party hierarchy and winning the governorship in blue-ish Minnesota twice." He's recanted his one "ideological deviation"—support for cap-and-trade—and, like George W. Bush, he appeals to "white working-class voters" while still following the party's "plutocratic platform." It's early, but "in a wide-open field, Pawlenty is where I’d place my bet."