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For a man who claims he doesn't know what he's going to do when he leaves office, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has spent the past few days acting like someone who very much wants to end up in the White House.
After a big week that included some stumbles, Sunday's appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" could have been the governor's capstone moment. In a solo interview on the widely watched Beltway show, Pawlenty held his own but avoided some direct answers to questions.
Pawlenty blasted the economic stimulus package, Bush-era spending and said he supported "don't ask, don't tell," the controversial policy that allows gay soldiers to remain in the military as long as their sexual orientation remains hidden.
On Friday the Minnesota governor appeared on the stage of a big conservative political conference, and on Saturday he finished fourth in its straw ballot of Republican presidential wannabes.
On each day, Pawlenty got his name in front of the right people -- but may have gotten off on the wrong foot.
The governor offered some red meat to Conservative Political Action Conference attendees, including a reference to Tiger Woods' wife that many thought was overcooked.
"We should take a page out of her playbook and take a 9-iron and smash the window out of big government," Pawlenty said. The line drew whoops and cheers from the crowd and some grimaces from both pundits and admirers.
"I'm a big fan, but your analogy is just plain stupid," wrote one on Pawlenty's Facebook page.
Pawlenty failed to smash any windows with his straw poll ranking: He earned support from just 6 percent, placing him in fourth. The winner? Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, with 31 percent.
On "Meet the Press," host David Gregory asked whether Pawlenty expects "people to take you seriously" given the use of Woods' marital mess as a rallying cry.
"People still enjoy a sense of humor," Pawlenty responded.
On Sunday night the governor had the opportunity to test that sense of humor on one of his frequent targets, President Obama. The governors in Washington for the National Governors Association meeting were invited to the White House for dinner.
Rachel Stassen-Berger • 651-292-0164