Tim Pawlenty is kicking his presidential campaign into high gear today.
It's worth noting just how rare a Pawlenty nomination would be. Here are the results of open GOP nominations (leaving out, that is, nominations of sitting presidents):
1968 Nixon 2nd try (former nominee and VP)
1980 Reagan 3rd try
1988 Bush 2nd try (and VP)
1996 Dole 3rd try (and VP nominee)
2000 Bush 1st try
2008 McCain 2nd try
McCain, Dole, G. H.W. Bush, and Reagan had all been not only candidates, but runners-up, in the previous open nomination.
The big exception, of course, is George W. Bush, but just as obviously he was the son of a Republican president (and governor of a much bigger state). Bush defeated one previous VP (Quayle) and one previous candidate (Forbes) on his way to the nomination.
That's not to say that Pawlenty can't do it; it's a pattern, but there's been no study showing a causal connection between previous candidacy and nominations on the GOP side. That is, we don't know why it happens, including the possibility that it's a chance result, so I'd be very cautious about using the pattern to make predictions. And Democrats nominate first-time candidates frequently (Obama, Kerry, Clinton, Dukakis, Carter). It's tempting to think that there's something different about the two parties that allows Obama to defeat Clinton, Edwards, and Biden on the one hand, but that results in McCain prevailing over Huckabee and Romney on the other side -- but we don't actually know that.
Remember, it's only 27 months to the Iowa Caucuses. Ready yet?