Supporters say the former governor will have chances to get back into the political ring before long. Senate run is a possibility in 2014.
For the first time in more than two decades, Tim Pawlenty is out of a job and out of politics.
Since the 1990s, Pawlenty, the former governor who dropped out of the presidential race on Sunday morning, has been in public office or running for it.
"I really don't know what the future holds for me. I have absolutely no plans, which is at the same time very liberating but also a little concerning, so I've got to get to work," Pawlenty said on ABC's "This Week" just after announcing his campaign's end.
The 50-year-old, two-term governor already has political fans eying him for other offices.
"I don't think Minnesotans have heard the last of him. He'll live to fight another day. When that happens, his supporters will be right back there with him again," said Peter Glessing, a former Capitol staffer who traveled to Iowa on Saturday to help Pawlenty.
Tony Sutton, chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party, agrees.
"I'd still like him to consider running for the U.S. Senate in 2012," Sutton said.
That, Pawlenty said when asked at the Iowa State Fair on Friday, will not happen.
"I won't be running against Klobuchar in 2012," he told the Star Tribune.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has some of the highest poll numbers of any incumbent senator and many observers, Republicans and Democrats alike, believe she will be tough to beat.
Pawlenty might have a better chance of victory in 2014, running against U.S. Sen. Al Franken, who eked out a close victory after a months-long recount.
Gov. Mark Dayton will be up for re-election that same year. Pawlenty has mentioned, somewhat ruefully, that had he known how good 2010 would be for Republicans, he could have considered running for a third term as governor.
Conceivably, he also could try another presidential run in 2016.
But first he may have to rebuild some bridges with voters in his home state. As a presidential candidate, Pawlenty largely ignored Minnesota, although he did stop by occasionally to hold fundraisers.
Polls showed his popularity here had been dropping.
An also-ran for the No. 2 spot on the 2008 GOP ticket, Pawlenty said he is not looking to be anyone's running mate this time around.
"I've been down that road before. That's not something I am going to consider," he said on one Sunday morning talk show.
Pawlenty, who has made $120,303 a year for the past eight years as governor and who has no personal wealth, may need to earn some money. He could easily slip into a Minnesota firm as a "rainmaker" to bring in high-profile political or lobbying clients.
Pawlenty hasn't revealed any specifics.
"What's next? I'm going to take my daughter to college over the next few days," he said.
His supporters say Pawlenty will reappear on the scene sooner or later.
"This may close the chapter on part of his political career. But it doesn't end the book," said state Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington.
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger • 651-292-0164