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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published August 11 2012

Passed over again as GOP running mate, Pawlenty's political future unclear

ST. PAUL – Mitt Romney picked a Midwestern politician for his running mate – U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin – but former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was again passed over.

Pawlenty, who many said was the likely Republican vice presidential candidate, told reporters he is not disappointed because he did not get involved in the Romney campaign to be a running mate. He is appearing in Romney campaign events this weekend and will be on two Sunday morning news shows on behalf of the GOP candidate.

Romney’s campaign announced the Ryan decision on Saturday.

Pawlenty reacted with a statement: “Congressman Ryan is a respected leader and a bold thinker regarding the changes needed to restore America. His selection will also help Gov. Romney win the key swing state of Wisconsin. I am excited about a Romney-Ryan ticket and look forward to doing all I can to help them win this election.”

NBC News reports Pawlenty says he accepts the decision.

“I didn’t enter this thinking I was going to be the vice presidential candidate, so I’m not disappointed,” Pawlenty said. “And I’m excited about his candidacy, and I’m excited about having him be the next president.”

This is the second time Pawlenty fell short in the “veepstakes.”

In 2008, Sen. John McCain opted for Sarah Palin over Pawlenty, who had been a hard worker for McCain on the campaign trail.

Pawlenty himself ran for president last year, but dropped out about a year ago after a major Iowa trial run showed him short on support.

Ryan, 42, is House Budget Committee chairman and falls in between older traditional Republicans and Tea Party libertarians who have done well in several states, including dominating the Minnesota delegation to the Republican National Convention.

A political advantage of Ryan is that he could help deliver Wisconsin to Romney. Few, if any, political observers felt Pawlenty could bring Minnesota into the Romney camp.

With Pawlenty out of the vice presidential picture, his political future was not clear.

However, in the run-up to Saturday’s announcement, Pawlenty has been much discussed in national political circles.

The just-completed running mate search was familiar to Pawlenty. Four years ago, Pawlenty and his wife, Mary, were filling out page after page of documents to provide information McCain’s presidential campaign wanted from potential running mates.

It was a laborious process that left the then-Minnesota governor in second place to Palin. With that disappointment in mind, after he ended his own presidential campaign last year Pawlenty repeatedly said he was not interested in going through that again.

However, his tune began to change as he campaigned hard for Romney, sometimes together and sometimes apart. In recent weeks, Pawlenty began dancing around vice presidential questions, but said he would be “honored” to serve Romney.

Pawlenty watchers have felt since midway through his first of two terms as Minnesota governor that he wanted to move up to the national scene.

He often was seen with McCain years before the 2008 election, fueling speculation that he could be the Arizona senator’s running mate. Pawlenty became a leader in the McCain presidential campaign, and as time flew toward the day McCain would have to pick a vice presidential candidate, the governor furiously traveled the country pounding then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama in front of the media.

After Palin edged Pawlenty out, people who knew Pawlenty could tell he was hurt.

For many, his flirtations with vice presidential candidacy and his aborted presidential run may be all they know about the 51-year-old son of a South St. Paul laborer.

Among his pluses as a vice presidential candidate, it could be expected that his blue-collar background would have been played up to counter Romney’s silver-spoon reputation.

A front-page New York Times story is just one recent example of how political reporters picked up that story line. Many of the national stories also point out that he is an evangelical Christian, a plus for Romney, whose Mormon faith remains a problem for some.

Pawlenty spent four years as an Eagan City Council member before serving a decade in the Minnesota House, four years as the top Republican.

While the media and many politicians call national candidate Pawlenty boring, that is not how he was seen as House majority leader. In that job, he always was good for a colorful quote.

He and then-House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, sometimes were the one-two punch of a comedy team. One time, Sviggum entered a news conference with duct tape covering his mouth. Pawlenty ripped it off, causing Sviggum no little pain, to make a now-forgotten point.

Pawlenty was famous as chief GOP House spokesman for colorful, sometimes humorous, sometimes fiery speeches. He continued much of that early in his time as governor.

But as Pawlenty’s eyes began wandering toward Washington, his public sense of humor dimmed and he became more careful about what he said.

Democrats, and privately even some Republicans, complained that Pawlenty was more focused on national politics than governing Minnesota.

In 2010, with less than two weeks left as governor, Pawlenty came out swinging when asked about allegations he already had mentally moved on to the national scene.

The Republican governor told Forum Communications in one of his final interviews as governor that he remained connected to his job despite his national political efforts, which he refused to discuss.

“It’s a bunch of crap,” he said about what he claimed were Democratic-Farmer-Laborite attempts to paint him as a disinterested governor.