At news conference on the day Minnesota economists announced a $1.2 billion state deficit over the next 19 months, which could swell to $5.4 billion in 2012-13, got a bit testy and awkward as journalists quizzed Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty over whether his frequent political travel and possible 2012 ambitions have interfered with his ability to run the state.
He said he and his administration are doing everything they need do expand the job base in Minnesota and take care of the state. Interrupting another reporter's question he returned to his theme:
Pawlenty: If it has to do with the work around here. It gets done. There's nothing in our office or administration that 's not getting done.
Q: You are traveling the nation. Why aren't you selling Minnesota instead of running for an office that doesn't exist for another three years?
Pawlenty: You know I've said I'm not doing that. I haven't decided that yet and the work here and around the country is getting done. I don't know. What are you suggesting, Jim?
Q: I am suggesting you take a more aggressive stance in trying to address the jobs problem....
Pawlenty (interrupting): There is no opportunity that we haven't pursued or any job that's been left undone relative to our office or administration and if you can identify one, let me know, we'll address it.
You can see the exchange here. It begins around minute 14.
Around minute 23, he was asked again about his political travel and the issues of the state.
Q: Some of your critics are saying you are putting your political aspirations ahead of the state. Are you willing to take a run for president off the table in 2012 to put this issue to rest?
Pawlenty: I'm not sure what that has to do with it, Tom
Q: They're saying you are putting your political aspirations, possibly a run for president...
Pawlenty: Yeah, I disagree. You know my views on these matters haven't changed since 2003. They're not new. They're not somehow inspired by the implication in your question.
Q: So you are not willing to take it off the table?
Pawlenty: I don't know what I'm going to be doing after 2010. But I do know I will finish my term as governor with the budget balanced in Minnesota and will finish this term strong and well for the people of Minnesota.
Q: Are you planning on slowing down or changing your travel schedule nationally during the session?
Pawlenty: Yes. But I mean, keep in mind the message isn't that. Its: Does the work get done? And again given the number of hours I've put in there is no work that doesn't get done.