At a Glance
- Career History: Vice Chairman, Republican Governor's Association (July 2009-2011); Former Governor of Minnesota (January 2003-2011); Vice President of corporate development, Wizmo Inc. (2000 to 2001); Majority Leader (1999 to 2002); Minnesota House of Representatives (1992 to 2002); Eagan City Council (1990 to 1992); Eagan Planning Commission (1988 to 1989); Lawyer, Rider, Bennett, Egan and Arundel (1986 to 2000)
- Birthday: November 27, 1960
- Hometown: Eagan, Minn.
- Alma Mater: University of Minnesota, B.A., 1983; J.D., 1986
- Spouse: Mary
- Religion: Protestant
Path to Power
Pawlenty's brand of conservatism is rooted in his upbringing in the meatpacking neighborhood of South St. Paul, Minn., where his father worked as a Teamsters truck driver.
"People used to tease us because the town had a certain smell to it," Pawlenty recalled to The New Republic in 2008. "They'd say, 'God, something smells so bad.' We'd say, 'What are you talking about?' We didn't notice." When he was 16, Pawlenty's mom died of cancer and around the same time, his father lost his job. As a teenager, he delivered newspapers and stocked shelves at a grocery store, and paid his own way through college and law school at the University of Minnesota.
Pawlenty's flavor of conservatism calls for providing opportunities to citizens while emphasizing the need for individual responsibility. "I worked my tail off," Pawlenty told Minnesota Public Radio in 2002. "I have kind of this attitude that if you're able-bodied and able-minded, you should get some fair shakes in life. You should have access to a good education, you should hopefully have access to a good job market. But if you're able-bodied and able-minded, you also gotta work hard."
In a 2006 press conference, he said that people expected certain basic things from government, but "other than that" their attitude was "get out of my face."
In 2008, when Pawlenty was being touted as a possible running-mate for McCain, The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza wrote, "For a guy who has spent six years in the governor's office and was a leader in the state House before winning that post in 2002, Pawlenty has an almost non-existent political operation either in the state or nationally." As evidence of this, Cillizza noted that even though Pawlenty backed McCain early, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney clobbered McCain by 19 points in the Minnesota's February 2008 caucuses.
Despite having passed him over for the veep slot, McCain still speaks warmly of Pawlenty. Asked in a March 2009 appearance on "Meet the Press" whether he'd endorse his former running-mate Palin if she were to run for president in 2012, McCain was non-committal but named Pawlenty as one of the "very good" potential candidates. Should Pawlenty run in 2012, a McCain endorsement would be one possible way for him to build a national network.