Does Pawlenty make sense as Romney's choice for VP?by Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Four years ago, then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty did everything but announce that he wanted to be U.S. Sen. John McCain's pick for vice president.
But Pawlenty missed becoming part of his party's presidential ticket when McCain, the Republican nominee, picked former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running-mate.
This year, Pawlenty appears to be disinterested in the job. The former governor declined to be interviewed about the possibility that he will become the Republican vice-presidential nominee, but he has been campaigning hard for Romney around the country and on cable television.
"For me, I'm committed to Gov. Romney, not because I think I was looking for being vice president," Pawlenty said about the vetting process Tuesday on MSNBC. "I said many times that I can best serve him in other ways. Anybody would be honored to be asked. But the real issue here isn't necessarily the particulars of a VP candidate. The issue is 'does Barack Obama deserve reelection?' "
While Pawlenty suggests he isn't lobbying for the job, the Associated Press and other news organizations have reported that Pawlenty has submitted paperwork to Romney aides who are vetting prospective candidates. One reason the Romney campaign may be interested in Pawlenty is because he was scrutinized by voters and the national press during his own failed run for president.
Another is that one of the major criticisms of Pawlenty's presidential campaign — his inability to excite voters — may be an asset in the so-called veepstakes.
"The traits that a presidential nominee looks for in a vice-presidential nominee are not the traits that the public looks for in a vice-presidential nominee," Carlton College political science professor Steven Schier said.
Schier said there is a chance Pawlenty may get the job because he's loyal to Romney, is a hard campaigner and is an Evangelical Christian. Schier said Pawlenty's modest upbringing in South St. Paul could be a major factor in helping Romney appeal to white, blue-collar voters.
"Tim Pawlenty is from a working class family," Schier said. "He has described himself as a Sam's Club Republican and to the extent that he can bring that appeal for Romney, it could be critical to the outcome of the election."
If Romney picks Pawlenty, Minnesota will receive national attention, but Schier isn't sure it will make much of a difference at the polls. The state has not backed a Republican for president since 1972 and Schier doubts Pawlenty could shift the state into the GOP column in 2012.
Schier also notes that Pawlenty never won more than 50 percent of the vote during his two campaigns for governor and that polling suggests Pawlenty wasn't well liked in Minnesota when he left office in 2010.
Democrats are also quick to point out those negatives. State DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said Pawlenty left office with a $6.2 billion projected state budget deficit; that his policies led to higher property taxes; and that job growth in the state was flat during his two terms.
Pawlenty also backed what he called a "Health Impact Fee" of 75 cents per pack on cigarettes to help balance Minnesota's budget in 2005. Martin said he expects to highlight the former Minnesota governor's record if Romney chooses Pawlenty.
"I don't think it changes it dramatically, but it does offer us an opportunity to start contrasting President Obama's record of success with the failed records of these two governors," he said.
Martin said he doesn't think that Romney is more likely to win in Minnesota if Pawlenty is on the ticket.
State Republican Party Chairman Pat Shortridge also won't go as far to say that Pawlenty would deliver Minnesota if Romney picks him. But Shortridge said a Pawlenty choice would fire up Minnesota Republicans.
"It would get that core Republican support much more motivated," Shortridge said. "It would get a lot of donors and a lot of activists who might not know Mitt Romney as well and might not well be engaged today as they otherwise would be if they would pick Tim Pawlenty."
Shortridge said regional interests don't matter as much in presidential races as they used to. Ultimately, he said, voters will decide between Romney and President Obama, not their running mates.
- Morning Edition, 07/18/2012, 6:50 a.m.