Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty returned to the State Capitol Monday night to reflect on his legacy, his failed presidential campaign and his search for work in the private sector.
Pawlenty was the guest of honor a private ceremony to unveil his official portrait. But Minnesota's 39th governor, who for the past couple of months has kept a relatively low profile, had more than art on his mind.
Bulgarian-born artist Ross Rossin depicted Pawlenty standing outside the State Capitol in a dark suit and red tie. His coat is unbuttoned and his left hand is in his pants pocket. Unlike other gubernatorial portraits, there are no iconic or symbolic images in the painting. Pawlenty's wife, Mary, suggested several images that could have been included to represent his faith, family and political accomplishments, but she said that at age 50, there is more to come from her husband.
"I've got to believe there's another chapter for you somewhere. We'll see. Maybe not in politics," Mary Pawlenty said. "But there is not only another chapter in his life, but he has so much that he has learned and I believe so much more to give."
The former Republican governor said he wished the portrait could have included his wife as a way to acknowledge all she's done for him over the years. In a brief but emotional speech, Pawlenty thanked his family, friends, supporters and the artist. He directed his strongest praise to the people of Minnesota.
"I had the chance to occupy that office for eight years, others will in the future, others have in the past," Pawlenty said. "But the the thing that we get our wisdom from and our success from isn't the politicians and portraits. It's from the collective wisdom of the people of this state."
Following the dedication, Pawlenty told reporters he was proud of the portrait but he tried to downplay its lasting historic effect. He said it doesn't take long for people to move on and he, himself, is trying to move on after an early exit from the field of GOP presidential candidates. He ended his campaign in August following a disappointing showing in the Iowa straw poll. Pawlenty said his decision came down to running out of money and going into debt.
"We made some decisions that I think with the benefit of hindsight I would have done differently. I think if we had it to do over again, we would have probably metered out our resources lighter earlier so we could have made them last longer," Pawlenty said. "Instead, we went for a more dramatic piece of progress in that early Iowa contest, and I think we should have made a different decision."
Since leaving the campaign trail, Pawlenty said he's been trying to reclaim the life he put on hold two years ago. In addition to some yard work and traveling, he said he's been looking for a job and that he has several part-time, private sector opportunities in the works.
"I might serve on a board or two. I might get involved with a think tank or a nonprofit or a policy group. I might do some consulting. I might invest in some businesses or start a business," he said "So, I've got six or eight ideas, and maybe two or three of them will actually come to fruition."
Pawlenty did not rule out a future campaign. Asked if he might return to politics someday, such as a 2014 U.S. Senate race against incumbent Democrat Al Franken, Pawlenty said he really doesn't know what the future holds.
Tim Pawlenty is Gary Eichten's guest on Midday at 11 a.m. Tuesday. It will be Pawlenty's first extended interview in Minnesota since dropping out of the campaign.