Reporting Pat Kessler
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney continued his Midwestern bus tour on Monday in Wisconsin. He’s hitting small towns in swing states, while honing his campaign message.
But there’s another interesting element to this road trip: VP auditions.
Former Governor Tim Pawlenty was a vice presidential bride who was left at the altar 4 years ago by John McCain. By most accounts, Governor Pawlenty was the most likely choice to be chosen as McCain’s running mate. And the people around him thought it was a done deal right up until the very end.
This time, Pawlenty says he’s not interested. The Romney campaign, however, still seems hopeful.
The former Minnesota governor hit the road with Romney over the weekend. He’s considered a possible number 2 on the ticket, even though he downplayed the possibility Monday on CNN.
“I think I could serve him best in positions other than VP, so I’ve encouraged people to look at the other great choices that he has. But, obviously, anybody if asked or to be considered would be an honor,” said Pawlenty.
Until recently, Pawlenty has consistently denied any interest in the job. But things have changed, says University of Minnesota Professor Kathryn Pearson.
“The Romney campaign is acting like he’s on the list. The national media are acting like he’s on the list. And Pawlenty himself is acting like he’s a contender,” said Pearson.
Governor Pawlenty ended his own short-lived presidential campaign last year with a quick Romney endorsement.
But Pawlenty advisor Brian McClung still insists that he’s not interested.
“You can see why he was somebody they would consider. But Governor Pawlenty is just not worried about that, not thinking about that,” said McClung.
On the plus side, Pawlenty was already vetted for vice president by McCain in 2008. He’s a reliable supporter with a steady Midwestern demeanor that some national analysts might call “boring”. But this year, “boring” might be good.
“Pawlenty would be a safe choice. I don’t think any Republicans who would be inclined to support Romney would pause because Pawlenty was the vice presidential nominee,” said Pearson.
Despite all the hoopla surrounding Pawlenty as a possible VP, many still consider Florida Senator Marco Rubio as the frontrunner.