Instead, Jacobs said, the chief stumbling block for Pawlenty could prove to be his war chest. Romney, for instance, raked in a $10 million in one day. If Pawlenty can collect that same haul in the course of the entire second-quarter reporting period, a three-month-long stretch, then he should be happy.
"The real key is fundraising numbers," he said. "If Pawlenty is below $10 million, he's got a big problem. If he's above $10 million, then it means he's really starting to build traction among the donor base."
Ultimately, the key for the former Minnesota governor, Jacobs said, will be to survive the early states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and make voters start to look at which candidate might have the electability necessary to defeat President Obama in the general election.
"With each state that passes, his prospects will improve and the field is going to winnow," Jacobs said. "And then the issue of electability rises to the fore. As soon as we move to that issue, Pawlenty is going to start to look very strong."