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Assuming he doesn't plan to run for reelection, Pawlenty can refuse to sign the election certificate for Franken -- if Coleman wants to take the legal fight federal -- and continue to raise his national profile by arguing (in his low key, inoffensive way) on a variety of televisions outlets that he is simply trying to ensure no legitimate votes are left uncounted, a GREAT issue for him in the eyes of GOP base voters.
Cillizza's most interesting point is that Pawlenty very well might not run for reelection, which would reduce the risks of declining to certify Franken:
Those close to Pawlenty insist he is genuinely conflicted about whether or not to run again and won't make his mind up until early summer. And, we take them at their word.
That said, if Pawlenty wants to be a serious contender for president in 2012, it makes little sense for him to run for reelection as he narrowly escaped defeat in 2006 against a lackluster Democratic nominee (former state Attorney General Mike Hatch ) and, given Minnesota's decided shift toward Democrats in recent elections, it's hard to imagine his odds at a third term would be any better than 50-50. A loss in 2010 would doom him for 2012 -- see: Allen, George.
I think Pawlenty's chances would be a bit better than 50-50 in 2010. Minnesota Democrats don't have a truly top-tier contender.
Plus, there are real risks associated with giving up his elected perch without a fight. Pawlenty might find that in 2012 he lacks Romney's money, Palin's appeal and Sanford's ideological niche. If running for president doesn't work out, Pawlenty would benefit from having a day job to come back to -- especially one that could keep him in the public eye ahead of 2016.
Still, the point about Pawlenty perhaps not running for reelection is a good one. If Pawlenty prevents Franken from being seated, that may be an indication that he's not planning for another term as governor.
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