Gov. Tim Pawlenty is regularly involved in tense late-night negotiations -- and not only, it appears, during the frenzied final days of a legislative session.

A joking remark he made about his sex life has gone national, spreading through the blogosphere quicker than anything the potential vice presidential hopeful has said about global warming, property tax caps or health-care access funds.

During a fishing-opener interview on WCCO Radio on Friday, Pawlenty said this about First Lady Mary Pawlenty: "I have a wife who genuinely loves to fish. I mean, she will take the lead and ask me to go out fishing, and joyfully comes here. She loves football, she'll go to hockey games and, I jokingly say, 'Now, if I could only get her to have sex with me.'"

In the background, Mary Pawlenty quickly added, "Sorry -- my apologies for my husband."

Was it an unguarded slip, or a shrewd play for empathy from frustrated husbands coast to coast?

On the radio, Pawlenty was quick to repeat, "It's a joke, it's a joke." His spokesman Brian McClung said Tuesday that "nothing further" on the issue would be coming from either of the Pawlentys, adding only that "it was clearly said as a joke."

Pawlenty has found himself in a curious position as the parlor game of guessing McCain's running mate pick has heated up.

He was scheduled to seize a bit of the national spotlight today during a panel discussion at the National Press Club on the nation's educational crisis.

But he canceled because the legislative session is in its final week and "the governor wants to ensure that he is available for negotiations with legislative leaders," McClung said.

"Which means now we won't know if he would have been courted by the D.C. elite, like [Florida Gov.] Charlie Crist last week," a Politico blogger wrote. "Nor would we be able to ask about his sex life, either."

That was relatively tame compared with how several other several political blogs gleefully linked to Pawlenty's joke.

A blogger for the Atlantic cracked, "A bit bawdy for the GOP VP frontrunner? All I can say, Governor, is that the Naval Observatory can be an incredible aphrodisiac ..."

"Straight talk, Minnesota male-style," another wrote. "Typically, this would hurt a candidate for veep. But given McCain's sense of humor, he'll probably find it hilarious and like Pawlenty that much more."

By Tuesday afternoon, a Google search for "pawlenty wife have sex with me" turned up 31,000 hits.

Bob von Sternberg • 612-673-7184