Tim Pawlenty Sat on Secret That It Wasn't Him

PHOTO: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty speaks at the Jackson County Republican headquarters in Jackson, Mich. on Aug. 8, 2012.

Tim Pawlenty was passed over as a presidential running mate twice. But to a reporter sitting on his front lawn during what must have been a difficult time -- getting passed over to be Mitt Romney's running mate and not being able to tell anyone about it -- he was a nice guy and a gentleman.

I spent 11 days on a veepstakes watch with the former Minnesota governor. From the front seat of my rental car, I watched him walk his dog, encountered a dance team practicing on his front lawn and was even offered an ice cold beer from the man known as T-Paw.

A private citizen might look at the treatment as stalking or at the very least creepy. Most people would complain about the grass being trampled or the lack of privacy.

But Pawlenty stayed friendly even when, in hindsight, it was clear he knew he didn't get the job. He was also just one phone call away in 2008 but Sen. John McCain decided to go with Sarah Palin. The rest is history.

Eagan, Minn.

In mid-July, I pulled up outside of a beautiful, but modest gray-colored home in the Minneapolis suburb of Eagan. It was supposed to be the home of a vice presidential contender, but there were about 20 kids doing aerobics on the driveway.

A mistake? No, it was the right house, but the Pawlentys had lent the front of their home to the camp at which their eldest daughter worked.

Shortly after the kids left, Tim Pawlenty, dressed in a white T-shirt and baseball hat, came out to walk his 8-year-old-dog, Mazy.

A Beer and Hardware Hank

Pawlenty, 51, holds no public office and employs no staff, so if you have a question, you ask Tim Pawlenty. It's a no-frills process that could be initiated when Mazy came outside to do her business or really anytime he pulled out of his driveway.

And it's a marked difference from dealing with a cadre of press aides and communications directors. Despite the chatter among political pundits that he would have been the "boring" pick, Pawlenty is actually quite funny.

On day two of the stakeout, he came to say "Hi," and brought assurances that there were no clandestine meetings with anyone from Boston, stressing throughout our time together that he was "telling it to you straight."

He did offer me a cold beer, although, as a working journalist behind the wheel of a parked car, I was forced to decline.

On day three, hours of air conditioning and laptop charging led to a dead car battery. And despite seriously considering asking Pawlenty for a jump, your unbiased reporter called the car rental company.

"Does ABC have no sense of humanity?" Pawlenty asked on day four, pulling up in his gray Ford Taurus and noting that reporters who stake out vice presidential candidates spend an awful lot of time in hot, parked cars. "Need anything from Hardware Hank?" he asked, driving off.

'We'll Know Soon Enough'

Pawlenty soon started his active surrogate duties up and held two events for Romney in North Carolina. He greeted me and another reporter who had been sitting outside his home with, "It's my neighborhood friends," including a smile.

I returned back to Minneapolis a little less than a week later, which turned out to be the day Romney broke the news to him. You'd never have known it. The next day he was still being the hard-working surrogate and campaigned for Romney in Michigan. That day, just five days before the announcement, Pawlenty told reporters, "We'll know soon enough."

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