Pawlenty may be Romney running mate

Decision to be announced soon,Pawlenty’s working-class roots key,Rob Portman also in contest

Written by New York Times | Eagan,minnesota | Published: July 17, 2012 1:34:31 am

JEFF ZELENY

It was four years ago this summer,when Tim Pawlenty ranked high on the list of John McCain’s potential running mates,and Pawlenty and his wife,Mary,were plowing through a voluminous questionnaire probing deep into their finances and almost every other aspect of their lives.

“I remember the two of us joking one night at some inhumane hour,‘No way is Mitt Romney doing this by himself!’ ” Pawlenty later wrote in his book. “We had a good laugh over that.”

After a short-lived presidential bid of his own last year,Pawlenty is again being considered for the Republican ticket. His fate is in the hands of Romney,a rival-turned-friend,who is on the cusp of announcing his vice-presidential selection. Romney has reached a decision,his friends believe,and he may disclose it as soon as this week.

The country received only an abbreviated introduction to Pawlenty,51,a former two-term governor of Minnesota,whose working-class roots,experience outside Washington and evangelical faith have formed the core of his appeal to a broad spectrum of Republicans.

While Romney has kept more distance from the rest of his primary challengers,he has embraced Pawlenty,seeking his advice about running against President Obama and sending him to Republican events on his behalf. They began forging a closer relationship last year on a visit to the Romney family’s lakeside home in New Hampshire,aides said,and during debates this year when Pawlenty often travelled with the Romney campaign after dropping out of the race himself.

He has emerged as one of the most energetic cheerleaders and forceful defenders of Romney,firing back against Republican skeptics and Democratic critics alike.

While other potential vice-presidential candidates like Senator Rob Portman of Ohio and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana have day jobs that limit their availability,Pawlenty,who has no other full-time position,is the political equivalent of an empty nester,available to do whatever Romney asks.

The vetting of possible vice-presidential candidates is approaching an end. It has been a deeply secretive process,but several Republicans close to the campaign believe Pawlenty and Portman stand out among those being considered.

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