While Minnesota residents are still awaiting the results of the Nov. 4 Senate race — only 210 days ago, if you're keeping score at home — at least they now know something about their governor.
Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, is to announce this afternoon he will not seek re-election.
Pawlenty, who was on John McCain's short list for VP last year — he was, for the record, my personal prediction — is thought to be looking at a 2012 presidential run. And no one wants to go into a presidential effort with a defeat back home. Yet that might have been the case had Pawlenty sought a third term.
In decidedly blue Minnesota, the center-right Pawlenty has had to struggle to win. He took 44 percent of the vote in a three-way race in his first victory, in 2002, and four years later he defeated his Democratic opponent by just 1 percentage point — a difference of 21,000 votes out of more than 2 million cast. He's been battling with the Democratic-controlled state Legislature, and his numbers back home have not been great.
Plus, with the Minnesota Supreme Court perhaps weeks away from rejecting Norm Coleman's (R) appeal in the Senate race (that's my guess), Pawlenty would be in the unenviable position of having to decide whether to certify Al Franken (D) the winner. Either decision would have been met with an outcry by one side or the other. (He's still going to have to make a decision on certification, but he won't have to face the Minnesota electorate in 2010.)
Assuming a White House bid is in his plans, Pawlenty's decision probably makes sense. It frees him to plot a more conservative course than he would have had he intended to run again back home.
Minnesota Public Radio is streaming Pawlenty's 3 p.m. ET news conference live. You can hear it here.
MPR's Tom Scheck suggests that with Pawlenty out of the 2010 gubernatorial calculation, potential Republican candidates include former Rep. Jim Ramstad, former state Auditor Pat Anderson, former state House Speaker Steve Sviggum and state Sen. Geoff Michel, among others.