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Tim Pawlenty could end up as the last candidate standing in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, but conservatives aren’t too enthused about any of the top-tier contenders for 2012, Richard Viguerie told NewsMax.TV.

But all that could change if Sen. Jim DeMint threw his hat into the ring, said Viguerie, chairman of ConservativeHQ.

“He would electrify the movement much as Ronald Reagan did,” Viguerie said.

If the South Carolina senator did enter the race, he would attract almost universal support among conservatives: “He would almost clear the field for his candidacy,” Viguerie said in the exclusive Newsmax interview.

But as it stand now, Viguerie said, “almost all the conservatives I know are disappointed” in the slate of contenders.

He praised businessman Herman Cain and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota as “wonderful, principled conservatives” but added that “they haven’t demonstrated that they can be top-tier candidates.”

Of the big names in the race so far, Viguerie sees former Minnesota Gov. Pawlenty not as the favorite but as a candidate most Republicans feel they could live with.

“Tim Pawlenty is someone who is interestingly positioned now so that he could be everybody’s default candidate,” Viguerie said. “Very few people see them as their first or second choice. He might be the last person standing. He’s the default candidate for all elements of the party.”

Pawlenty could beat President Barack Obama in 2012 if he is able to articulate the Republican message clearly, Viguerie said. “People want to fire Obama by 2012. They feel strongly, but they need to feel comfortable” with the GOP alternative.

Viguerie dismissed former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman’s chances, saying the former U.S. ambassador is seen as “liberal Republican” and will alienate conservatives.

As for former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who has been considering another White House bid, “I think he has zero chance of getting the nomination,” Viguerie said.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is in the race, but Viguerie says conservatives don’t consider him reliable enough.

“Conservatives for many years have had kind of a love-hate relationship with Newt Gingrich,” he said. “There are days when he sounds just like a conservative, and then he moves left . . . Conservatives really don’t feel like they can trust Newt.”

Viguerie described New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as “an intriguing individual” but said conservatives don’t yet know a lot about him.

“Chris Christie is a blank slate. I don’t think conservatives are going to be inclined to buy a pig in a poke,” he said.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin does a good job in speaking out and bringing attention to the conservative agenda, Viguerie said, adding that he isn’t so sure the GOP’s 2008 vice-presidential candidate would make a viable contender for the nomination.

Palin “is an asset to the conservative cause,” he said. “I am glad that she is involved in the public policy arena. I think as a candidate, she could be polarizing.”


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