Back at the end of May, I wrote about the desperation of Tim Pawlenty. While he had been seen as a possible "bridge" candidate linking the somewhat moderate GOP establishment with the party's more right-wing grassroots base (both Tea Party and "social conservative"), he just wasn't catching on.
He was, and remains, fairly well-liked by pundits (including influential conservatives like George Will) and other political and media insiders, but his numbers, reflecting not just a lack of name-recognition but a lack of support broadly, have been consistently poor. The latest RCP national average has him at just 4.5%, eighth in the race behind Romney (the clear frontrunner at 25%), Perry (who may not run), Palin (who almost certainly isn't running), Bachmann (who has emerged as a strong second to Romney), Cain, Paul, and, yes, even Gingrich (who is running a joke of a campaign). He's sixth in Iowa (with Perry not included), close to his homestate of Minnesota and somewhere he should be doing well (or where he must do well to have any shot at the nomination), at just 6.7%, ahead of Paul but behind the others and well back of Romney (19.3%) and Bachmann (12.7%). And he's even further back in New Hampshire, in seventh (if you include Giuliani, who may jump in but likely won't do well) and a long, long way back fro Romney (34.5%).
It's not for lack of trying, though. Pawlenty has, thus far, proven to be a lackluster and often embarrassing candidate unwilling to take on Romney face-to-face, but he's done a great deal to try to appeal to the base, including coming out as a social conservative (i.e., theocrat, bigot) on issues like same-sex marriage and DADT and proposing a ridiculous trickle-down tax/budget plan designed to suck up to Grover Norquist, the Tea Party, and other anti-government movers and shakers on the Republican right.
It's just that nothing seems to be working, and so he's still pathetically grasping for attention, trying to emerge possibly as a third option to Romney and Bachmann. And he's doing that by continuing his "social conservative" assault of homosexuality, asserting on Meet the Press this morning that science is "in dispute" over whether being gay is genetic or a choice:
GREGORY: Is being gay a choice?
PAWLENTY: Well, the science in that regard is in dispute. I mean, scientists work on that and try to figure out if it's behavioral or if it's partly genetic –
GREGORY: What do you think?
PAWLENTY: Well, I defer to the scientists in that regard.
GREGORY: So you think it's not a choice? That you are, as Lady Gaga says, you're born that way.
PAWLENTY: There's no scientific conclusion that it's genetic. We don't know that.
Of course, you can always find one or two scientists, perhaps paid by some right-wing institute, to dispute what the (non-partisan) scientific community has come to accept as established fact, based on all the available research, and thereby to cast doubt on consensus (and to suggest that there's "no scientific conclusion." (This is how conservatives, including Pawlenty himself, dismiss climate change, for example.) As Think Progress notes in this case:
In fact, there is no dispute among health professionals. All major medical professional organizations agree that sexual orientation is not a choice and cannot be changed, from gay to straight or otherwise. The American Psychological Association, the world's largest association of psychological professionals, describes sexual orientation as "a complex interaction of environmental, cognitive and biological factors." There is considerable evidence to suggest that biology, "including genetic or inborn hormonal factors," plays a significant role in a person's sexuality.
Is the evidence conclusive to the point of absolute certainty? No, but science rejects absolutism and is never certain about anything. That's the point of science, completely ignored by those on the anti-science right. Is there any "dispute." Yes, if, as with climate change, it comes from those on the right who, largely for partisan/ideological reasons, disagree with the vast majority of the scientific community and reject the overwhelming amount of evidence against them. But there is certainly no dispute among reputable scientists that genetics plays an essential role in determining sexual orientation and that being gay is not a matter of choice.
Of course, none of that matters to Pawlenty, who's really just trying to score some political points by situating himself as an ignorant bigot worthy of support from the GOP base. Will it work? No. His ship has sailed -- if there ever was a ship at all. I, like many others, thought he had a good shot at the nomination if only as a suitable second choice for many across the Republican spectrum. But there's no denying just how bad a candidate he's been, nor just how uninteresting and uninspiring he is. He can push his fiscal/economic bona fides all he wants, but he'll never be Romney, who in Republican circles has extensive credibility in that area. He can push his social conservatism, faux or otherwise, all he wants, but he'll never be Bachmann, who has a long record of advocating extremist right-wing positions on hot-button social issues. And while he could still hang around in a Romney-vs.-Bachmann race, he just doesn't seem like a suitable compromise candidate anymore.
Okay, he's still got a shot, given how weak the Republican field is, but it's longer than ever now. Which may only exacerbate his desperation and push him to say more and more extremist and ridiculous things.