STEVENS POINT, Wis. - Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, frequently mentioned as a possible running mate for Republican John McCain, said Friday he doesn't have "any motivations or designs" of doing anything more than volunteering on behalf of the presidential candidate.
Pawlenty, 47, is a national co-chairman of McCain's campaign and is seen as a possible good balance for the 71-year-old Arizona senator on the presidential ticket. Pawlenty could bring Minnesota, with its 10 electoral votes, into the Republican column after going Democratic in the past eight presidential elections.
But Pawlenty dodged questions about whether he would like to be McCain's running mate.
"I'm focused on being governor in the state of Minnesota. I have a day job," Pawlenty said at a news conference before giving the keynote speech at the Wisconsin Republican convention.
"I'm happy to support Senator John McCain as a volunteer. I think he's a great American. I think he's somebody who will be a great leader for our country. He's one of the most courageous, most bold politicians I've had a chance to be associated with.
"I'm happy to support him. I don't have any motivations or designs beyond that."
McCain and Pawlenty have worked together on a number of issues, and they both share a penchant for sometimes breaking with the Republican Party. McCain, the likely GOP presidential nominee, campaigned and raised money for Pawlenty's re-election campaign in 2006.
Pawlenty's term as governor runs through 2010 and he's deflected questions about whether he would be McCain's running mate. In 2006, during his re-election campaign, he said, "If I run for governor and win I will serve out my term for four years."
Other possible McCain running mates being mentioned include former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. Even Wisconsin's own U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Janesville has been talked about as having an outside chance at getting the nod.
Wisconsin Republicans are hoping McCain can find a winning formula in the state after Democrats John Kerry and Al Gore narrowly prevailed in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections.
Pawlenty said McCain will appeal to voters in states like Wisconsin and Minnesota because he has elements of populism in him and his character has been tested in ways that most people can't imagine.
McCain can also put states like New Jersey and California into play, he said.
Pawlenty said he believes McCain has united the Republican Party and has proven to be attractive to those outside the party including independents and Democrats.
"People are looking to Senator McCain to re-energize our chances," Pawlenty said. "He is a person who I think can appeal in states and places where at least recently we haven't had that much appeal."
Pawlenty said in his speech that Republicans need to attract more diverse candidates and voters and speak about issues that people care about. Republicans need to get back to their core values and principles and project an image of hope and optimism like former President Reagan did, Pawlenty said.
"We need to be a positive, hopeful, opportunity-oriented party," Pawlenty said before the speech. "Republicans need to get on the positive side of their message and find their joy and not be just be dour or cynical or skeptical."
The Wisconsin Democratic Party issued a statement on the GOP state convention, saying Republicans have a record of failure on such issues as Iraq, health care and the economy.
State Democratic Party Chairman Bill Wineke said McCain offers nothing but more policies that are "out of touch."