Gov. Tim Pawlenty has taken himself out of the running for the vice presidency or for any other position that would take him away from the Minnesota governor’s office before the end of his current term in 2010.
That may sound like a pretty big scoop, but it’s not. It’s based on straightforward statements that Pawlenty made in 2006, as he announced his candidacy for a second term, and in early 2007, after his term had begun.
More recently, Pawlenty has adopted a statement that it’s an honor to be considered for the ticket and that it would hard to turn down Sen. John McCain if he were to ask Pawlenty to be his running mate.
We’ll find out in the next week or so whether McCain will ask Pawlenty. But it seemed worth reminding Minnesotans that if he were to join the ticket Pawlenty would be reneging on a commitment he made as a condition of his 2006 reelection. I’ll provide chapter and verse (even video) of the relevant statements below.
I don’t claim to have dug up anything amazing here. I’ve written about this before, in my old Strib blog “The Big Question.” And I’m not pretending to be shocked, shocked that there’s gambling going on in the back room nor that a candidate might say something to help him win an election and then not feel totally bound by it.
But every time I go over this particular matter, it makes me wonder whether there are guidelines at all about when we are supposed to take such commitments seriously? I’ve been particularly struck that this fairly blatant case is seldom even raised as a question.
So, to be specific, speculation about Pawlenty seeking national office in 2008 was already present in 2006 as the guv approached the question of seeking reelection. Without question, it would have been awkward to seek a new four-year term if voters thought he might ditch halfway through. So, on May 31, 2006, the day he announced in a park in Eagan that he would seek a second term, Pawlenty said:
“As to my future, if I run for governor and win, I will serve out my term for four years as governor.”
No weasel words here. Not “expect to” serve my full four years. Not “plan to.” “Will.” I have always taken it as an unequivocal statement of a commitment, although that’s my naïve streak coming through.
By the way, thanks to the miracle of the Internet, you can watch the video and decide for yourself whether there’s a wink or a nod there that left open the possibility that Pawlenty would do something other serve out his four-year term. (In the clip, WCCO states that Pawlenty’s comment “might well put an end to speculation that the governor would take off mid-term for Washington and a higher office.”)
It might well have done, but it didn’t. Speculation about Pawlenty for veep seems barely to have slowed down as a result of the statement. And, apparently, the cynics had it right. Pawlenty did reaffirm his pledge in January of 2007 (Jan. 15,2007, shortly after inauguration, Pawlenty, quoted in Strib: “I am committed to serving out my term as governor. That’s what I am going to do.”)
But Pawlenty has long since stopped reaffirming that pledge (perhaps it expires if not frequently reaffirmed) and switched some months ago into a slightly coy, I’m not seeking the vice presidency mode, which eventually involved into this, from “Fox News Sunday,” June 8, 2008:
“I don’t have any designs on being vice president. If somebody came to me and said that, of course I would be honored to be mentioned, honored to be asked, and it would be difficult to turn that down, but I don’t have any designs, and it’s not why I’m such a great and strong supporter of Senator McCain.”
The MPR story that day reporting on Pawlenty’s comment noted that Pawlenty had previously pledged to serve his full term as governor, without making a federal case out of it, as I, apparently, am doing here.