Despite not getting VP nod, Pawlenty still hot ticket at RNC

2008 Republican National Convention: Day 2
People hold signs on day two of the Republican National Convention (RNC) at the Xcel Energy Center on September 2, 2008 in St. Paul, Minnesota. The GOP will nominate U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) as the Republican choice for U.S. President on the last day of the convention.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Gov. Tim Pawlenty's schedule on day two of the Republican National Convention included a panel discussion on education reform in Minneapolis. He also joined former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the Reverend Al Sharpton and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings for a non-partisan discussion of how to improve the nation's underperforming schools.

"The problem is sufficiently diagnosed. Now we need to get on the solution side of the problem and quit admiring the problem to death," Pawlenty told those in attendance.

Pawlenty left the policy session early to focus again on political matters. His afternoon schedule included an interview with Newsweek, a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition and a meeting with the group Sportsmen for McCain.

Hurricane Gustav forced convention organizers to scale back Monday's schedule. Pawlenty, who is John McCain's national co-chairman, told reporters he was pleased the RNC was getting back on track.

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"Our thoughts continue to be with those residents on the Gulf Coast. They are up against still significant challenges. Even though the storm wasn't as bad, there's still problems, there's still damage, and so there still needs to be focus on the response," said Pawlenty. "But we believe we can now move forward with the convention. It's still not going to be the same convention and same schedule, but we will be able to resume some of the qualities of a full blown convention."

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty in Denver at the DNC
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty spoke in Denver, where the Democratic National Convention is being held, to support Republican Candidate John McCain.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

Pawlenty is also fielding lots of questions about the woman McCain selected as his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

On Monday Palin announced her 17-year-old daughter was pregnant. Questions are also being raised about Palin's dismissal of an Alaskan state public safety commissioner.

Pawlenty says Palin's public record, but not her personal life, is fair game for scrutiny. He says he's not concerned that Palin has become an unwelcome distraction for McCain and the Republican party.

"There's always going to be some introductory back and forth with a new candidate, whether it's for vice president or president. So there's going to be a little of that, no matter who he selected," said Pawlenty. "But it'll be important to get back onto the message of who John McCain is, what he stands for and his vision for the country, and we hope to do that."

And four days after McCain's announcement of his running mate, Pawlenty continues to stay positive about getting passed over. The governor still says he was honored just to be considered.

"I'm grateful for what I have. I have a fantastic state. I'm grateful for being the governor of the state of Minnesota. And I'm not at all disappointed or negative or angry or anything like that," said Pawlenty.

Pawlenty has certainly raised his national profile through the McCain campaign. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says he's known for years that Pawlenty was a future national leader.

"I think he clearly has a future, whether it means he stays her in the state and runs for the Senate, or if it means he ends up in the cabinet if McCain wins. He would be a terrific member of the cabinet and he's I think just a first rate," Gingrich said.

The nation will get a close up look at Governor Pawlenty Thursday night. He's scheduled to speak at the Convention in advance of John McCain's acceptance speech.