Iowa Tea Party head not high on Pawlenty

The Atlantic Monthly has an interesting post on where the head of the Iowa Tea Party Patriots sees the race for the GOP nomination in 2012. Ryan Rhodes, the Iowa chairman of Tea Party Patriots, the most prominent national network of tea party activists, said his group ranks former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Indiana Congressman Mike Pence as the ones to get the backing of the Tea Partiers. Here’s what Rhodes said about Pawlenty:

“As far as other contenders go, Rhodes says Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty faces the challenges of low name recognition and possible associations with the GOP establishment; House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (VA) suffers from having supported Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava (along with other GOP leaders, other than Pence) in New York’s 23rd district special election before Conservative Doug Hoffman surged and Scozzafava dropped out; and some people like Sen. Rick Santorum (PA), but he hasn’t generated buzz.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are at the bottom of the tea partiers’ list.

With so far to go until 2012, it’s hard to predict where affiliations will lie at that point. Candidates like Pawlenty, Santorum, Cantor, and Thune (should he become more interested) will have time to introduce themselves to Iowa conservatives, and things could change if either Huckabee or Romney decides not to run.

It may be a bit hard to gauge whether this is just Rhodes opinion or a growing sense of his group. At one point, he suggested that Palin, Jindal and Pence were his top three choices as well.