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December 13, 2006
A McCain-Pawlenty Ticket?

Jim Geraghty looks at the dynamic between Senator and presidential hopeful John McCain and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and reaches a conclusion that I suggested almost two weeks ago. Pawlenty's early commitment to endorse McCain and his work on McCain's exploratory committee looks like a partnership meant for larger purposes -- and McCain himself seems to hint that Pawlenty could be his running mate in 2008:

Mr. Pawlenty's presidential buzz was silenced by his political near-death experience this year. Despite the St. Paul Pioneer Press declaring: "Gov. Tim Pawlenty was a Republican rock that withstood a Democratic tidal wave washing across the state and nation Tuesday," talk of his presidential aspirations abruptly ended.

In the meantime, the Republicans committed to holding their 2008 convention in St. Paul. The early contours of the GOP's 2008 strategy suggest that it wants to win over the remaining blue parts of the Upper Midwest — Minnesota, Wisconsin, and maybe Michigan — the way it grabbed Iowa and expanded its hold on Missouri in 2004.

Earlier this month, National Review Online reported that Mr. Pawlenty will support Senator McCain's bid for the White House and is actively engaged in the senator's exploratory committee. Though no evidence exists that the Minnesota governor's early support represents a pitch to get on a McCain-Pawlenty ticket, it's hard to believe the thought hasn't crossed either man's mind.

In the final week of the November election, Mr. McCain made several appearances with Mr. Pawlenty and his words of praise would suggest the Arizona senator sees in the governor a potential future vice president."I know of no one who will make a greater contribution to the future of America than this great leader," Mr. McCain said at one stop."This is the kind of leadership that I'd like to pass the torch to."

Normally, candidates look for running mates that will balance them both in geographic and political terms. For the former, Pawlenty would be a traditional choice, marrying the Mountain West with the Upper Midwest. Politically, it's less clear, but that's partly because McCain has been all over the map on occasion. McCain wants to run as the GOP's base conservative candidate, but his speech-limiting campaign-finance reform and his Gang of 14 stunt with judicial nominations that kept key candidates off the bench make that connection tenuous at best. Pawlenty first won office as a staunch conservative, but since the last election has started triangulating on universal health care.

However, Geraghty is correct about one item, and that's the lack of ready talent for the VP slot. Unless the nominee takes one of the challengers as a running mate after the convention, the pickings are slim, especially at he gubernatorial level. Pawlenty managed to win re-election, and other than Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mike Huckabee, no other GOP governor has made much noise on a national level -- and Arnold's ineligible for the ticket.

Pawlenty's opening-round endorsement at the Governors Conference surprised many people, including me. I thought he'd keep his options open and look for a shot at #2. He passed that opportunity up early, and that makes me think that McCain and Pawlenty have more going on than just a mutual admiration society.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 13, 2006 5:28 AM

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