Again, Pawlenty Fails To Reach Veepstakes Medals Stand

Pawlenty after 2006 re-election

Updated with Pawlenty reaction:

Mitt Romney picked a Midwestern politician for his running mate: U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who many said was the likely Republican vice presidential candidate, told reporters he is not disappointed because he did not get involved in the Romney campaign to be a running mate. He is appearing in Romney campaign events today and will be on two Sunday morning news shows on behalf of the GOP candidate.

Romney’s campaign confirmed the Ryan decision early today . His Web site said: “We are proud to announce Paul Ryan as Mitt’s VP. Together we will offer a plan to restore American greatness and help build a stronger middle class.”

Pawlenty reacted with a statement: “Congressman Ryan is a respected leader and a bold thinker regarding the changes needed to restore America. His selection will also help Gov. Romney win the key swing state of Wisconsin. I am excited about a Romney-Ryan ticket and look forward to doing all I can to help them win this election.”

A formal announcement came this morning in a Virginia museum containing the USS Wisconsin. The Wisconsin congressman and Romney were to then leave on a four-state tour.

NBC News reports Pawlenty says he accepts the decision: “I didn’t enter this thinking I was going to be the vice presidential candidate, so I’m not disappointed. And I’m excited about his candidacy, and I’m excited about having him be the next president.”

This is the second time Pawlenty fell short in the “veepstakes.”

In 2008, Sen. John McCain opted for Sarah Palin over Pawlenty, who had been a hard worker for McCain on the campaign trail.

Pawlenty himself ran for president last year, but dropped out about a year ago after a major Iowa trial run showed him short on support.

Ryan, 42, is House Budget Committee chairman and falls in between older traditional Republicans and Tea Party libertarians who have done well in several states, including dominating the Minnesota delegation to the Republican National Convention.

A political advantage of Ryan is that he could help deliver Wisconsin to Romney. Few, if any, political observers felt Pawlenty could bring Minnesota into the Romney camp.

With Pawlenty out of the vice presidential picture, his political future was not clear.

However, in the run-up to today’s announcement, Pawlenty has been much discussed in national political circles.

The just-completed running mate search was familiar to Pawlenty.

Four years ago, Pawlenty and his wife, Mary, were filling out page after page of documents to provide information John McCain’s presidential campaign wanted from potential running mates.

It was a laborious process that left the then-Minnesota governor in second place to Palin. With that disappointment in mind, after he ended his own presidential campaign last year Pawlenty repeatedly said he was not interested in going through that again.

However, his tune began to change as he campaigned hard for Romney, sometimes together and sometimes apart. In recent weeks, Pawlenty began dancing around vice presidential questions, but said he would be “honored” to serve Romney.

Pawlenty watchers have felt since midway through his first of two terms as Minnesota governor that he wanted to move up to the national scene.

He often was seen with McCain years before the 2008 election, fueling speculation that he could be the Arizona senator’s running mate. Pawlenty became a leader in the McCain presidential campaign, and as time flew toward the day McCain would have to pick a vice presidential candidate, the governor furiously traveled the country pounding then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama in front of the media.

After Palin edged Pawlenty out, people who knew Pawlenty could tell he was hurt.

For many, his flirtations with vice presidential candidacy and his aborted presidential run may be all they know about the 51-year-old son of a South St. Paul laborer.

Among his pluses as a vice presidential candidate, it could be expected that his blue-collar background would have been played up to counter Romney’s silver-spoon reputation.

A front-page New York Times story is just one recent example of how political reporters picked up that story line. Many of the national stories also point out that he is an evangelical Christian, a plus for Romney, whose Mormon faith remains a problem for some.

Pawlenty spent four years as an Eagan City Council member before serving a decade in the Minnesota House, four years as the top Republican.

While the media and many politicians call national candidate Pawlenty boring, that is not how he was seen as House majority leader. In that job, he always was good for a colorful quote.

He and then-House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, sometimes were the one-two punch of a comedy team. One time, Sviggum entered a news conference with duct tape covering his mouth. Pawlenty ripped it off, causing Sviggum no little pain, to make a now-forgotten point.

Pawlenty was famous as chief GOP House spokesman for colorful, sometimes humorous, sometimes fiery speeches. He continued much of that early in his time as governor.

But as Pawlenty’s eyes began wandering toward Washington, his public sense of humor dimmed and he became more careful about what he said.

Democrats, and privately even some Republicans, complained that Pawlenty was more focused on national politics than governing Minnesota.

In 2010, with less than two weeks left as governor, Pawlenty came out swinging when asked about allegations he already had mentally moved on to the national scene.

The Republican governor told Forum Communications in one of his final interviews as governor that he remained connected to his job despite his national political efforts, which he refused to discuss.

“It’s a bunch of crap,” he said about what he claimed were Democratic-Farmer-Laborite attempts to paint him as a disinterested governor.

Pawlenty said that Democrats’ logic goes something like this: “He must be running for president or he would be raising taxes.”

In that interview, a rarity with Minnesota media by the end of his term, Pawlenty made it clear how he wanted to be remembered, and how he wanted potential national supporters to perceive him: “I am the first true fiscally conservative governor in the history of the state of Minnesota.”

Democrats said the desire to look conservative, necessitated by national ambitions, moved Pawlenty from the moderate column, where they say he started his governor tenure.

One of his harshest critics was state Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon.

“One of his problems was that he was thinking about the big time,” Langseth said. “That is why he just refused to do what was needed with the budget.”

Pawlenty said Democrats did not like him because he would not raise taxes.

“The inference from that group is that he must have an ill motive or a mental defect because he just won’t raise taxes like a Democrat,” Pawlenty said.

In the end-of-term interview, Pawlenty refused to talk much about his future, even though he released an autobiography weeks later and early in 2011 announced his campaign for president.

Heady days of appearing on national television were far from his roots.

Pawlenty’s father drove a milk deliver truck while the future governor grew up near the South St. Paul stockyards. His mother died when he was 16.

Pawlenty intended to become a dentist and enrolled at the University of Minnesota, becoming the first family member to enter college.

However, interning for U.S. Sen. David Durenberger changed his mind and he switched to a political science major. He went to the university’s law school, where he met Mary Anderson, whom he married in 1987,

Pawlenty worked for a law firm, then entered politics.

He had planned to run for U.S. Senate in 2002, but then-Vice President Dick Cheney, on behalf of President George W. Bush, convinced him to step aside to allow Norm Coleman a free route to the GOP nomination.

Pawlenty switched to the governor’s race, but neither the first nor the second campaign was easy.

In the 2002 election, Pawlenty barely became the GOP candidate after a heated contest with businessman Brian Sullivan was not decided by Republican convention delegates until 4 a.m. He won the general election over two popular politicians, but with fewer than half the votes.

He beat Attorney General Mike Hatch in 2006 by a single percentage point, and that only after Hatch showed his rougher side during the campaign’s final days, a factor many observers said tilted the election to Pawlenty.