ABC News' Caitlin Taylor reports:
Minnesota Republican governor Tim Pawlenty says he will not make a decision on a presidential run for 2012 until early next year, but he does already have his eyes set on Florida. Pawlenty joked with ABC News’ John Berman that he has aspirations of opening a margarita bar in the state after finishing his term.
“I’m going to open a margarita bar in South Florida and play some Kenny Chesney music,” the governor said.
Assessing tonight’s election returns and projecting what it could mean for President Obama in 2012, the Minnesota Republican said, “The country is frustrated and worried. They will send a message to President Obama by putting him in a headlock in 2010. If he does not stop flailing they will throw him out of the ring.”
Pawlenty also offered his thoughts on when other potential 2012 Republican candidates, including Sarah Palin, will have to declare their candidacy.
“I think it probably varies by potential candidates. Somebody like Sarah Palin, given how well known she is and the ability she has, she could probably wait longer than people who are less well known,” Pawlenty said.
The governor also weighed in on the Tea Party’s influence on the 2012 Republican field.
“They will be a force to be reckoned with. They’re growing. They’ve been successful. I think they’re going to be continuing on.” Pawlenty added, “Whoever’s going to be the candidate for the Republican Party in 2012 is going to have to earn substantial support for the Tea Party. I don’t think there’s any doubt about it.”