Pawlenty to Think About

Stateline.org notes that it is now very unlikely the next president will be a governor and that, rather, a U.S. senator (gasp!) is ...
by | February 8, 2008

Pawlenty Stateline.org notes that it is now very unlikely the next president will be a governor and that, rather, a U.S. senator (gasp!) is close to a certainty.

But allow me to make some lemonade: This development greatly increases the chances that the next vice president will have a gubernatorial background.

Presidential nominees have been reluctant to select governors as running mates in recent years, probably for the sake of balance -- many of the nominees were governors themselves. (Someone has to know about foreign affairs, after all.)

Now, with senators at the top of the tickets, governors have a good chance at the #2 spot. So, let me kick off what I expect will be an occasional series on governors who are possible vice presidential candidates. First up, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.

Pawlenty has been subject to a good deal of speculation today as a McCain's running mate, including in one of his home-state papers, the Star Tribune.

There are a bunch of arguments in Pawlenty's favor. 

He's someone conservatives like because, in budget battles with the legislature, he's successfully fought against tax increases. At the same time, he's not an especially polarizing figures. Minnesotans gave him good marks for his response to the Minneapolis bridge collapse.

John Kerry only won Minnesota by 3.5%, so perhaps Pawlenty could push the Republican nominee over the top in his home state. Pawlenty was an early endorser of McCain. Plus, Republican National Convention will take place in St. Paul this year.

That said, Pawlenty has a potential liability, beyond the standard drawbacks of virtually any governor who runs for national office (no foreign policy experience, not a national figure, etc.). If he is elected, Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau would be the new governor of Minnesota.

Molnau, who also serves as commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, has faced withering criticism since the bridge collapse. A recent poll showed that a large majority of the state's residents disapprove of the job she is doing at MnDOT. Legislators are looking to oust her as transportation commissioner, but she would still remain lieutenant governor.

So, would Minnesotans be enthusiastic about supporting a ticket with Pawlenty, knowing it would make Molnau governor? If not, if he can't help McCain win Minnesota, is there really anything to separate Pawlenty from other contenders? Those questions may lead McCain to look elsewhere.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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