Nate Silver, the one-time sports statistics guru (he cut his teeth at Baseball Prospectus) whose website fivethirtyeight.com rose to fame during the 2008 election cycle, has written a couple of posts in the past week concerning our own Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
On Thursday, Silver cracked open the 2006 gubernatorial election returns to see whether he could spot any unusual demographic strengths that might illuminate Pawlenty’s chances in 2012. Aside from the governor’s boffo performance among two related demos–30-44-year-olds and parents with children under 18–the answer was not so much, leading Silver to the following prescription for TP:
Perhaps this can be Pawlenty’s elevator pitch: the 30-second (or less) soundbyte that distinguishes him from some of the other, relatively strongly-branded Republican hopefuls like Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin. He’s Soccer Dad! Or since this is Minnesota, he’s Hockey Dad! Or, since Palin has sort of deflated the Hockey Parent bubble, he’s Curling Dad!
Pawlenty’s small opening might come among voters who conclude that Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee are a little scary (although Pawlenty is an evangelical Christian, he’ll lose if he tries to out-conservative them), but that Charlie Crist and Mitt Romney are a little creepy. If I were him, I might talk a lot about guns — but not so much about God.
But the item of more immediate interest to Minnesotans is the "governors’ power rankings" published the day before. Silver has developed a new metric for comparing governors’ approval ratings that goes a couple of steps past the raw approval numbers. The method involves adding two factors to the equation: the size of the state (statisticians have confirmed that it’s relatively much easier to run up great numbers in states with small populations than in states with large ones) and the partisan composition of the state’s electorate (Republican governors, for example, get more bang out of faring well in states that skew Democratic than in ones that skew toward their own party).
When that formula is applied, Pawlenty’s consistently solid but unspectacular approval ratings–which have rarely departed from the low/mid-50s during his tenure–are good for 25th place on the list. He also falls right in the middle of the seven governors who, in Silver’s words, "are considered serious contenders for the 2012 presidential nomination."
Here’s that breakout: