MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. An election year with some disappointments turned out well in the end for former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.

Hope was high in Des Moines back in May 2011, when the likeable guy from South St. Paul launched his candidacy for president.

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But just three months later, after he finished a distant third in the Iowa straw poll, Pawlenty dropped out of the race.

Pawlenty quickly hitched his wagon to Mitt Romney, and once again he was on the perceived shortlist of possible running mates. But, just as he had been in 2008, Pawlenty was passed over.

In late September, Pawlenty left the Romney campaign to become the CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable, a lobbying group for banks. It’s a high-profile, high-paying gig, and one that his spokesman says will mean Pawlenty is out of any possible challenge of Al Franken for Senate in 2014.

But, as politicians say often, “never say never.”

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“Two years is a long time in politics, and I think the future is uncertain,” said Kathryn Pearson, associate professor of political science at the University of Minnesota. “It’s really too soon to speculate where Minnesota will be in two years, four years, six years, and certainly where the country will be. And I think that’s probably part of (Pawlenty’s) calculation in taking this lucrative job that’s available now.”

Pearson said had Pawlenty stayed in the presidential race, it would have been interesting to see if he’d become a more conservative choice to Romney.

“I’m not sure that Pawlenty necessarily fit that bill, but he was someone without a lot of baggage, so it would have been interesting to see what would have happened had he stayed in.”

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Maybe Tim Pawlenty is thinking the same thing. At 51 years old, time is still on his side.