The Des Moines Register sized up outgoing Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's potential presidential ambitions and found he's making all the right moves but may have trouble vaulting to the top.

An excerpt: 

Despite all that he’s done, Pawlenty has a lot more work to do to become competitive, said Allan Lichtman, a presidential scholar at American University in Washington.

“He’s got a lot of candidates to leapfrog over,” Lichtman said, naming 2012 potentials Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

In the past three to four decades of Republican presidential primary history, no virtual unknown has emerged to capture the GOP nomination, Lichtman said. That is a phenomenon more familiar to Democrats. Capturing a party’s nomination with little national name recognition would require riding a hot issue or building a superior field operation, Lichtman said.

“Democrats have had unknowns come out from nowhere … but Republicans have no history of it,” Lichtman said. “The best model is George McGovern. He did it with both a major issue, the (Vietnam) war, and with grassroots organizing.”

In 1972, McGovern of South Dakota won the Democratic Party nomination on an anti-war platform over establishment favorite Ed Muskie of Maine.

The likelihood of Pawlenty being able to pull off a similar coup is virtually nil, Lichtman said.

“Something strange would have to happen for him to get the nomination,” he said.

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