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A majority of Minnesotans don't want to see Gov. Tim Pawlenty run for president in 2012, but nearly as many say they would give him a look if he were nominated, according to a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll.
The poll shows that only 30 percent of adults want to see the two-term governor make a try for the White House three years from now, while 55 percent do not.
But in a mixed message for Pawlenty, 25 percent of Minnesotans said there was a "good chance" they would vote for him if he became the GOP nominee, while another 25 percent said there was at least "some chance" they would vote for him. A solid 43 percent said there was no chance they would vote for a President Pawlenty.
The survey of 1,000 Minnesota adults was completed last week, after Pawlenty had spent months traveling the country to address Republican groups -- appearances that could pay off should he run for president, but which may have irritated some Minnesotans.
Despite his rising national profile, Pawlenty's job approval rating among Minnesotans stands at 49 percent, similar to his rating in April. Last September Pawlenty's approval rating was 54 percent, while two years ago at this time it was 59 percent.
Appearing Monday at a deployment ceremony for Army Reservists, Pawlenty described his approval rating as being "within the range of where it's been, usually, high 40s, mid 50s." The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
Pawlenty deferred comments on a potential presidential run to his political spokesman, Alex Conant. For his part, Conant said he found it encouraging that half of poll respondents would consider voting for Pawlenty -- "a conservative in a liberal-leaning state" -- for president.
Pollster Larry Hugick said the down economy may have hurt Pawlenty's approval ratings, but noted there is little comfort for Pawlenty in the rest of the poll numbers -- especially the 55 percent who don't want him to run for president.
"That is not a good number," Hugick said. Hugick is the chairman of Princeton Survey Research Associates, which conducted the poll for the Star Tribune.
Still, University of Minnesota political scientist Lawrence Jacobs said the poll results are better than he expected for Pawlenty, considering the recession, controversy over his unilateral cuts in the state budget and criticism of his trips.
"I think it's an astoundingly upbeat assessment of the governor at this point," said Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the university's Humphrey Institute.
Jacobs said Pawlenty's approval from just under half of Minnesotans shows he continues to draw independents and some Democrats as well as Republicans.
However, his disapproval rating of 38 percent is the highest of his governorship.
'An OK job'
Wayne Werkhoven, a White Bear Lake construction superintendent, said he approved of Pawlenty's state leadership.
"I would say he's done an OK job," said Werkhoven, 58. But that doesn't mean he wants Pawlenty as president. "I wouldn't really think that he's up for it," Werkhoven said. "I'd personally like to see someone from the military run for president."
Should Pawlenty get on the ballot, Werkhoven, an independent, said he would probably vote for him because he's a native son.
Others, such as Lyle Knosalla, said that Pawlenty wasn't conservative enough.
Knosalla, a 61-year-old retired machinist from Ramsey, said he had voted for Pawlenty in his two gubernatorial elections, but was disenchanted by Pawlenty's support of Republican nominee John McCain last year, his earlier support of a Twins stadium and the rise in fees under Pawlenty.
Mark Hyland, a pest control technician from Fridley, said that Pawlenty should definitely run for president and that there's a good chance he would get Hyland's vote.
"He is honest and truthful and he doesn't have hidden agendas," said Hyland, 61. "He is trying to hold down runaway cost and trying to hold the line on increased taxes, and I think he has smaller government intent in mind. And I'm always in favor of that."
Pawlenty has traveled the country extensively in recent months and said he will continue to do so, fostering active speculation about a presidential run.
That doesn't sit so well with Thomas Fahey, a poll respondent who said national ambitions appear to have taken Pawlenty's eyes off of Minnesota issues. He said he wishes Pawlenty would cooperate more with legislators and concentrate on the state's budget issue.
"I think he is distracted substantially by his running for the president hopeful selection," said Fahey, 80, of West St. Paul. "I'd rather have seen him stay at the state at this time."
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger • 651-292-0164 Pat Doyle • 651-222-1210