Pawlenty, McCain praise each other, but duck 2008 questions

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Sen. John McCain
Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Sen. John McCain, shown at a news conference at the Capitol in St. Paul on April 12, 2006. McCain was on a tour of the country, in support of Republican candidates.
MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire

(AP) To hear Gov. Tim Pawlenty and U.S. Sen. John McCain tell it, 2008 is the last thing on their minds. But the Minnesota governor and the Arizona senator sounded a lot like two guys who wouldn't mind sharing a national ticket. McCain was in town Wednesday to help fellow Republican Pawlenty raise funds for his re-election bid this year.

"I think that all of us in public life have an obligation to try to encourage another generation behind us to serve, and that's why I've been very privileged to know Governor Pawlenty," McCain said at a press conference, with Pawlenty standing at his side. "I think he's the next generation of leadership in our Republican Party, and in America."

McCain then said he hasn't yet decided if he's running for president in two years, much less given thought to potential running mates. He also questioned if Pawlenty would want to be vice president.

"The vice president of the United States really only has two duties. One is to break a tie vote in the Senate, and the other is to inquire daily as to the health of the president," McCain said. "I'm not sure that Governor Pawlenty, given the responsibilities he has here, would be interested in that."

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Pawlenty, for his part, said he's focused on winning re-election and on a possible second term. But he offered similarly effusive praise for McCain, stopping short of openly endorsing his likely presidential bid but saying, "I think the times are calling out Senator McCain."

Pawlenty said that, along with Ronald Reagan and former Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr, McCain is one of his personal heroes.

"You can't help but look at his life story and his record of courage, his record of dedication, his record of self-service ... and not be inspired," Pawlenty said.

On paper, Pawlenty would certainly help to balance out a ticket with McCain at the top. McCain will turn 72 in 2008, while Pawlenty will turn 48 that November. McCain is a Washington veteran, having represented his southwestern state in the U.S. Senate since 1987, while Pawlenty is a newer face, a Midwestern governor first elected in 2002.

McCain recently invited Pawlenty to accompany him on a trip to visit U.S. soldiers in Baghdad. His visit to Minnesota on Wednesday was expected to raise at least $100,000 for Pawlenty's re-election effort, according to a campaign official.

Pawlenty has indicated he will seek a second term, and has been actively fundraising, but has not made the campaign official.