Pawlenty Surges to Forefront of Romney Veepstakes Speculation

"They were always friendly during the campaign, but plus they served as governors during the same time. Gov. Romney was head of the Republican Governors' Association when Pawlenty was running for re-election in 2006. Gov. Pawlenty, in a tough year for Republicans, was one of the few real success stories, and Gov. Romney deserved a lot of credit for that as head of the RGA. They ended up working a bit together in that capacity," the aide said. "Then on the campaign trail in the primary they bumped into each other a couple of times and were always friendly. Then after Gov. Pawlenty dropped out he and Mary went to spend a weekend with the Romneys, and I think that's where they got to know each other really personally. Since then on the campaign trail, they've campaigned together a bunch of times."

"He was one of the first people to endorse Gov. Romney, and he did it because he thought Gov. Romney was the best candidate in the field by far and felt very strongly that he could be the best president," the aide continued. "Now he's really gotten to know Gov. Romney and Ann, and he has really enjoyed campaigning for them and is committed to seeing him elected. He's been a loyal and effective surrogate. Whether that translates into a close look for vice president is anyone's guess, but I think it was the last thing on the governor's mind when he endorsed him.

"I don't think he was ever expecting to be talked about in this way. He joined various corporate boards and is doing a lot of interesting international things, in addition to spending as much time as possible helping Gov. Romney. Plus he's got his daughters and his family life. So those are his focuses and he's really not paying attention to the vice presidential stuff."

Publicly Pawlenty, who is a national Romney campaign co-chair, has expressed a reluctance to talk about the veepstakes and has stated that he can "best serve Mitt in other ways." In Minneapolis last month, he went so far as to encourage people to "remove my name from the list." However, weeks later, he said that "anybody would be honored to serve if asked."

Brian McClung, a spokesman for Pawlenty, said the former governor is not agreeing to interviews for stories on the vice presidential selection "because he wants to keep the focus on the issues and Gov. Romney.

"Gov. Pawlenty believes Gov. Romney will be a great president and he's happy to serve as an active volunteer," McClung said. "Gov. Pawlenty believes he can be helpful in other ways and has encouraged the consideration of other running mate prospects. He is enjoying his time in the private sector."

In the meantime, Pawlenty continues to work as a loyal surrogate. In an appearance last Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Pawlenty ripped President Obama's record during his tenure in the Oval Office.

"It really looks to me like a shrinking presidency," he said, arguing that "the president is out of ideas, and he's out of time and now he should be out of office."

"The president's message of 'it could be worse and it's somebody else's fault' four years into his presidency – that's not a basis to re-elect somebody," he said. "We don't give out participation ribbons for being president of the United States. You actually have to do something."

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