By the start of the following week, he was off to deliver more speeches in Ohio and open another campaign office. The rigors of Pawlenty’s schedule have made him the hardest-working Romney surrogate among all the vice presidential hopefuls, a fact that buoys his boosters, who read it as a sign that devotion will be rewarded. But no one knows better than Pawlenty that a long slog in politics guarantees nothing. Four years ago, while serving as Minnesota governor, Pawlenty toiled hard and long on behalf of Sen. John McCain, only to be passed over in favor of an alluring newcomer who had not stumped for the candidate at all.
“Tim’s disappointment was obvious,” said Phil Krinkie, a former Minnesota state House colleague who greeted Pawlenty and his wife, Mary, on the floor of the Republican National Convention, held by chance in St. Paul. “He’d had a deep yearning to be on the ticket. He was devastated, truly devastated. It was on his face. We had a handshake, a few words, you could feel it, the pain.”
Just the same, Krinkie became enamored of Sarah Palin. “People were swept up by it – this new face, her bravado, the excitement she brought instead of another white middle-class male,” he recalled. “I’d have liked to have seen Tim get it, but I was always a little bit of a skeptic about Tim’s chances. . . . I’m still a little skeptical this time, too.”
So are many others. Among Republicans looking for pizazz from the pick, Pawlenty’s name receives scant mention. Jeb Bush gets tongues wagging by endorsing Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal pauses one day from his own surrogate chores to say he favors Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin — a notion joined on Thursday by the Wall Street Journal editorial board and the Weekly Standard.
The stakes this year are greater for Pawlenty than anyone else on the short list – Ryan, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, or, perhaps, Jindal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell. Unlike the others, Pawlenty’s political career has stalled. Following two terms as governor, Pawlenty is out of office – with no real public profile, no notable causes, no great flock of followers, nothing but his demonstrated zeal as a surrogate, and his eagerness to prove his mettle.
‘He has done everything right’
Pawlenty has labored earnestly to look like a suitably deferential number two, friends say privately — all the more impressive, they add, given how swiftly he had to recover from the disappointment of not being the number one. After his failed presidential run, best remembered for its lack of passion and a disastrous showing in the Iowa straw poll, Pawlenty quickly enlisted with the Romney forces to do what, politically, he has always done so well: trumpet the candidacies of others.