Pawlenty not done with politics yet

Published 10:35 am Wednesday, October 12, 2011

By Tom Scheck
Minnesota Public Radio News

Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty jokes that he has a lot more time on his hands now that he’s not running for president.

Since he dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination in August, Pawlenty has been looking for work. He doubts he will make another run for president.

“That would be highly unlikely,” said Pawlenty, who gave a wide-ranging interview to MPR News on Tuesday. “Time marches on and if you look at the Republican Party there is a lot of great next generation talent coming up.”

Pawlenty, who appeared much more relaxed than in his final year as governor and time on the campaign trail, said he dropped his bid for the White House because he ran out of money.

But he doesn’t plan to completely avoid of presidential politics. Pawlenty said he will actively campaign for Mitt Romney, who is among the leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination.

Pawlenty, who endorsed Romney last month, said the former Massachusetts governor is the most qualified among those running. He also told reporters that he was excited to hear that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is backing Romney’s campaign. Christie recently announced that he will not run for president.

The New Jersey governor’s announcement came just hours before the Republican presidential candidates appear at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire for their seventh debate.

“Probably the most valuable endorsement around the country right now is Chris Christie’s,” Pawlenty said. “So for Gov. Romney to get Chris Christie’s endorsement I think is a major boost to his campaign and will send a signal across the conservative spectrum [to] tea party types, fiscal conservatives and others that it’s time to consolidate around Gov. Romney.”

Pawlenty also discounted talk that U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s entry into the Republican presidential contest played a role in his political demise. He said the fact that both and Bachmann are from Minnesota had little to do with his failure to gain traction in the campaign.

“People are suggesting that there is some big conflict between me and Congresswoman Bachmann,” Pawlenty said. “There isn’t. I had some differences with policy with her in debates. She’s served admirably in Congress. She’s served well in Congress. She’s been there a respectable amount of time and I think she’s qualified to be president.”

Pawlenty admitted that he made a few tactical errors during his White House run. He said the campaign spent too much time and money focusing on Iowa’s Straw Poll.

He admitted that he may have listened too closely to his consultants and didn’t rely on his political instincts.

Pawlenty also said he’s growing concerned that party stalwarts, the media and the public are becoming too focused on crazy statements and not enough on substance.

“Eisenhower warned of the military industrial complex,” he said. “There is a political, entertainment and media complex that has developed where politics and news and entertainment are fusing together in a way that is starting to mimic cartoons in a way or reality TV.”

Pawlenty said he isn’t interested in challenging Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar in 2012.

But he wouldn’t take any other options off the table, among them another run for governor or a challenge to another Sen. Al Franken, another Democrat, in 2014.

“I don’t know what the future holds and beyond what I’ve just described, I haven’t ruled anything in or out,” Pawlenty said.

The former governor also told reporters that he watched the state’s government shutdown with great interest. He said the shutdown is a signal that the two parties are at loggerheads over the best direction for the country.

Pawlenty said one-party political rule may be the only way the state and nation can get moving again.