In the end, Tim Pawlenty didn't get to walk on that stage with John McCain. Instead, it was Sarah Palin, a younger, less-experienced, less well known governor who stood next to McCain.
"I know that when Senator McCain gave me this opportunity he had a short list of highly qualified men and women, and to have made that list at all was a great privilege, and to have been chosen brings a great challenge. I know that it demands the best that I have to give and I promise nothing less," Palin said.
Palin has several characteristics that may have helped her edge out Pawlenty and the other men on the short list:
- She and her husband are union members.
- Her son is in the Army and is leaving for Iraq next month.
- And Palin's gender may help convince disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters to vote for McCain.
As the McCain-Palin ticket heads off to rallies in Pennsylvania and Missouri, Gov. Pawlenty starts preparing for next week's Republican National Convention. He speaks twice at the event, and he will also play host to many of the party's luminaries.
Pawlenty told reporters at the State Fair this morning that Palin is a strong and dynamic leader. And despite campaigning long and hard for McCain, Pawlenty said he wasn't disappointed someone else got the call.
"I am delighted that Senator McCain is running for president. I'm excited to support him. I never got into this with the idea that I needed or wanted something out of it," said Pawlenty." I'm honored to have been considered, but I'm really excited and pleased with his selection."
Pawlenty said his main focus is now on Minnesota, and he didn't want to discuss his political future. He declined to speculate if there was a spot for him in a possible McCain Administration. He also said he will announce early next year if he's going to run for a third term.
Even though the governor's reaction has been positive, some of his Republican colleagues in Minnesota are disappointed.
Congressman Jim Ramstad,R-3rd Dist., said he's pleased with the Palin selection, but he is sad for his colleague.
"I went to bed last night very excited that he was the pick, and I feel a little bit like I did in high school when my best friend was cut from the basketball team," said Ramstad.
Ramstad and others had good reason to think McCain would pick Pawlenty.
Political handicappers repeatedly ranked Pawlenty as one the most likely running mates for McCain. Pawlenty stumped for McCain in at least a half a dozen states and promoted him on national news shows. Republican Sen. Norm Coleman said that work helped Pawlenty build a lot of goodwill among Republicans across the country.
"He's reached the finals of the American Idols of politics. This is it. At that point, he's already a winner. He's a winner. This country has got to see his talent and his profile has been raised tremendously. We always knew it and now the country knows it," said Coleman.
University of Minnesota political science professor Larry Jacobs agrees. Jacobs said Pawlenty likely made valuable political and fundraising contacts as he campaigned for McCain. He said that could help him if he aspires to higher office.
"If John McCain wins, I think he'll have an opportunity to serve in Washington in the Cabinet. If he doesn't win, he'll be one of the big names in four years. So, the long-term picture, I think, for Tim Pawlenty is still bright," explained Jacobs.
But before Pawlenty can consider any future positions, his current job will keep him busy after the Republican National Convention. He has to get ready for the upcoming legislative session, and work on a new two-year state budget proposal.