Though he's still off the radar of most major polls, I continue to like Tim Pawlenty's style and substance, and think he has a real shot at the Republican nomination in 2012.
In the recent outpouring of GOP love for Mitch Daniels, several pundits revealed a desire for a wonky, slighly boring executive. Daniels may be the bland but competent technocrat of some conservatives' dreams, but he showed a startling political incompetency with the announcement of a "truce" on social issues. And frankly, "bland but competent technocrat" doesn't sell -- just ask Mitt Romney.
It's not that Republican candidates should emphasize social issues. That is certainly not the case. But neither is it the case that they should run away from them. ("Conservative with a moderate voice".) The "truce" was très gauche because it allowed the likes of Mike Huckabee to inflame the social base, and because it is literally impossible to declare a one-sided truce when ongoing public policy decisions must be made on social issues -- social issues don't just go away because other issues are more pressing.
Pawlenty shares a lot of Daniels' qualities, but leaves a more refined and less somniferous political impression. Given Pawlenty's well-polished appeal to the middle class voter, ability to defuse loaded political language, and his electoral success in territory typically hostile to conservatives, I think he's somebody to watch.