Reporting Pat Kessler
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Throughout the modern history of vice presidential selections, it is almost unheard of to pick a VP this far ahead of the political convention.
What is surprising is that former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is still in the mix. In fact, he’s a possible favorite to get the nod.
For Mitt Romney, Pawlenty has been a reliable go-to guy on the road. Multiple sources describe Romney as comfortable and friendly with the former governor — a key factor in his vice presidential choice.
“He connects with blue collar folks,” said Ben Golnik, who headed John McCain’s 2008 Minnesota campaign.
He said Pawlenty’s personal story and political record make him a good match with Romney.
“He’s tested. He’s been tried. He checks a lot of the boxes…good personal story,” Golnik said. “He governed like a conservative. He was reelected in 2006, a very difficult year. And he connects with people.”
Pawlenty was on the VP short list four years ago, when McCain chose a then-unknown Alaska governor, Sarah Palin.
Pawlenty’s own campaign for president fizzled fast, but he quickly endorsed Romney, and never looked back.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak described Pawlenty as one who comes off as a nice guy, but whose policies as a governor “weren’t all that nice.”
Rybak is also the Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee. He calls Pawlenty a “safe choice,” and very similar to Mitt Romney.
“A governor who didn’t get a lot done, who couldn’t create a lot of jobs and then spent the next four years whining about President Obama and saying we should go back to the bad old days of George W. Bush,” Ryback said. “Sounds like a great ticket to me, but not one that I would want to get elected.”
The New York Times reported Monday that Romney may have already made up his mind on the number two on the ticket, according to his friends.
Romney may want to announce his vice presidential pick sooner rather than later, because he’s traveling to Europe and Israel soon. After that, the news cycle will be dominated by the Olympics.
But unlike Romney, Pawlenty comes from a modest background and is not a man of wealth. He can mingle just as easily with blue-collar workers as with Fortune 500 CEOs. And even if Pawlenty is on the ticket, Minnesota may still go for Obama. He might be more helpful in places like Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.