The 7 Biggest Campaign Busts of the Past 20 Years

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Tim Pawlenty 2012

When Scott Walker dropped out of the 2016 race in September, just three months after declaring his candidacy, he drew comparisons to Tim Pawlenty’s short-lived 2012 campaign. The former Minnesota governor had been viewed as one of the most credentialed and credible candidates in a large Republican field. He possessed the experience and record that the GOP leadership believed voters wanted. Gerald Seib, writing in The Wall Street Journal, summarized Pawlenty’s status well:


Few candidates have had as many things break right for them as has Mr. Pawlenty in the past three months. The shape of the Republican field, the departure of some potential rivals, the pace of the campaign and the emerging issue mix all have broken about as well for the 50-year-old Minnesotan as he could have hoped.


But Pawlenty turned out to have a fatal flaw as a presidential candidate, perhaps a couple of them. Although “Minnesota nice” is a phrase that captures the pleasing civility of denizens of the Gopher State, it doesn’t necessarily suit a politician with national ambitions. In a June 12 appearance on Fox News Sunday, Pawlenty dubbed the Massachusetts health care system signed into law by Mitt Romney a hybrid beast called “Obamneycare.” Yet when asked to reprise the zinger during a primary debate, Pawlenty pointedly refused.

His star dimming rapidly, Pawlenty finished third in his neighboring state's Ames Straw Poll in August of 2011, behind Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann. He withdrew the next day, just 84 days after he declared his candidacy. Despite being a former hockey player, Pawlenty turned out to have a nice disposition—and a glass jaw.

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