Pawlenty opens up on VP hunt that went another way

Gov. Tim Pawlenty speaks at a delegate breakfast
Gov. Tim Pawlenty speaking at a delegate breakfast in St. Paul.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

(AP) - After deflecting questions about vice presidential jockeying for weeks, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty acknowledged for the first time how close he came to being John McCain's running mate.

He spoke on the same day the Washington Post reported that Pawlenty was one of two finalists for the vice presidential spot -- the other being Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who ultimately was chosen by McCain.

Mitt Romney speaking at a delegate breakfast
Mitt Romney speaking at a delegate breakfast in St. Paul during day three of the Republican National Convention.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

Pawlenty told reporters today that he was, in fact, being vetted by the McCain campaign. He also said McCain informed him Friday morning that he wasn't the choice. McCain announced his choice of Palin later that day.

McCain campaign adviser Rick Davis told reporters this morning that there was no ranking of finalists for the vice presidential nominee, nor was gender a part of the decision.

"All these folks were highly qualified. And we never discussed at any time who was on the short list, long list, medium list," said Davis. "We felt that that was very respectful to the various candidates for this election process."

For months, Pawlenty declined to address the issue as rumors swirled that he could be McCain's running mate.

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"You could say I was fully considered," Pawlenty said. "And I had a lot of discussion with the McCain folks about that possibility."

"Tim [Pawlenty] has a great future. It depends on what he wants his future to be."

Pawlenty said he got a chuckle out of a slip-up by Jo Ann Davidson, the chairwoman of the convention organizing committee, while she was at the Xcel Energy Center podium Tuesday night. She extolled "Sarah Pawlenty" as the vice presidential candidate.

Pawlenty said he wasn't disappointed by being passed over.

"I'm not a person who gets hung up on what I didn't get or don't have. I'm grateful for what I do have and I've been given a lot," Pawlenty said.

He said he doesn't foresee a comedown as he returns to the statehouse for the final two years in his term. He won't say whether he'll seek re-election.

"Nothing's changed," he added, "I'm the same person, I live in the same house, I have the same family, I have the same values, I have the same principles, I like and do the same things. The only thing that's different is I got to speak a little more for Senator McCain than I might otherwise would have."

The two-term governor revealed the details after addressing Minnesota's delegation to the Republican National Convention. He was part of an all-star lineup of politicians mentioned in the McCain veepstakes to make remarks at the delegation breakfast.

Tom Ridge
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge spoke to Minnesota's delegation at the Republican National Convention Wednesday morning.
MPR Photo/Mike Mulcahy

The Minnesota delegates also heard from former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge and businesswoman Carly Fiorina.

Ridge promoted Pawlenty as someone who could play on the national stage down the road.

"Tim has a great future," Ridge said. "It depends on what he wants his future to be."

Some of Pawlenty's home-state Republicans consider him a prime candidate for a role in McCain's cabinet if he wins or a 2012 White House candidate himself if the Arizona senator loses.

"He's young, energetic and he earned his stripes," said Minnesota delegate Dan Williams. "He has solid credibility. He is not one of these people who needs to be paraded or introduced to the nation. His star is very bright."

Ben Wiener, an alternate in the Minnesota delegation, said Pawlenty's charisma and two wins in a left-leaning state work in Pawlenty's favor. Pawlenty won statewide races in multi-candidate fields in 2002 and 2006 despite never claiming a majority of votes cast.

With a wry smile, Wiener said he was't disappointed that McCain went another direction.

"I'm actually glad it's not him," Wiener said. "We need him here."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)