WASHINGTON — If the National Governors Association provided Gov. Tim Pawlenty with a national stage this weekend, Fox News and CNN provided him with a national audience to score points on behalf of Sen. John McCain, the Republicans’ presumptive nominee for president.
The Minnesota governor also used his appearances on “Fox News Sunday” and CNN’s “Late Edition” to brush aside talk of his own prospects as a potential running mate with the Arizona senator, in whose campaign he serves as a national co-chairman.
“I have a day job, and I support him because I think he’d be a great president, not because I want to be vice president,” Pawlenty said on Fox. “He’ll have a lot of great choices when it comes to that, down the road, to pick a vice presidential candidate. I wish him well in that regard, but I’m trying to do my job and be focused on being governor.”
He did, however, point out that four governors have become vice presidents.
Pawlenty also got in a critique of Democratic front-runner Barack Obama: “One of the questions I’ll have, or the country will have for Sen. Obama, if he’s the candidate, is when he says, “Yes we can,” we also have to ask the rest of the question, which is “Do what?” When you go down the list of things that he’s proposing, I think it’s going to be quite expensive.”
As McCain’s surrogate on the morning talk shows, Pawlenty also took aim at last week’s controversial New York Times story linking McCain romantically to a female Washington lobbyist. It was Pawlenty’s first public comment on that controversy.
“It’s one of the worst pieces of journalism I’ve seen in recent times,” he said on CNN. “It*s journalism by insinuation. There’s no actual evidence that Sen. McCain had an improper relationship with this woman, but it’s insinuated in the article.”
He added: “I don’t think this is a significant derailment or problem for Sen. McCain.”
Pawlenty, playing the governor again, touted the state’s leading role in promoting renewable energy, the main topic of the three-day governors’ meeting.
But he also gave the nation a political read on Minnesota, the site of the 2008 GOP convention, and a state that hasn’t gone to a Republican presidential candidate since Richard Nixon in 1972. “In the land of Humphrey, Mondale, Wellstone, McCarthy what you’re seeing is a drift towards a competitive political state,” Pawlenty said. “It’s certainly not conservative yet, but it’s moving in that direction. So instead of being blue, I’d say it’s a purple state, and it’s going to be a competitive state come November.”
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