I don't think that's necessarily the case with Governor Pawlenty. He's a likeable person, wears well with people. This is demonstrated by his approval rating in the mid 5os and how he conducted himself during the Mississippi bridge collapse. Also in times of uncertainty I think people will be more predisposed to stick with a political figure who they like. And I think many see him as a necessary check on the DFL-controlled legislature.
The only hesitation is he's generally won with strong third party candidates in the race and hasn't won over 50% of the vote. Not necessarily according to a post by Eric Ostermeier on University of Minnesota's Smart Politics website.
He notes that
First, since Pawlenty survived 2006 it is quite likely he will survive 2010 -- as the odds of a third straight Democratic wave election are extremely low. With a more favorable political environment at his back, Pawlenty could easily win a third term. Remember, unlike Norm Coleman (who also appears to have won in the face of a Democratic wave), Pawlenty has a fairly high job approval rating: in the low to mid 50s.
Secondly, the fact that Pawlenty has not received 50 percent of the vote is an artifact not of his unpopularity but of the uniquely strong position third parties enjoy in the State of Minnesota. Over the past 10+ years, Minnesota has the highest support for third parties across elections in the Midwest - U.S. House, U.S. Senate, state legislature, and, of course, in gubernatorial contests.
He also notes there have been other three term governors in our state's history.
But a run for a third term per se would not be unprecented in Minnesota political history. Seven Gopher State Governors have each won three consecutive gubernatorial elections, although each were for two-year terms:
· Republican John S. Pillsbury (1875, 1877, 1879)
· Democrat John A. Johnson (1904, 1906, 1908)
· Republican Theodore Christianson (1924, 1926, 1928)
· Farmor-Laborite Floyd B. Olson (1930, 1932, 1934)
· Republican Harold E. Stassen (1938, 1940, 1942)
· Republican Luther W. Youngdahl (1946, 1948, 1950)
· DFLer Orville L. Freeman (1954, 1956, 1958)
I also think if Governor Pawlenty has interests in running for the presidency, running as a sitting governor is much more to his advantage than as a private citizen.
I don't think it will be easy for him to win re-election but it's certainly doable given that the party in charge of Washington DC is the Democrat party and that usually bodes well for the party out of power in off year elections.