In the run-up to the 2008 Republican convention in the Twin Cities, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was on just about everybody's shortlist of potential VP candidates. It wasn't meant to be. But Pawlenty, a conservative from a rather Blue state, could emerge as a contender for challenging President Obama. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Howard Fineman. Excerpts:

FINEMAN: Governor, for our year-end issue, we wanted to interview intriguing people about the future, including the future of the Republican Party.

PAWLENTY: And they weren't available, so you came to see me!

FINEMAN:Yes, Sarah Palin was on book tour. What is it about her that is so fascinating?

PAWLENTY: Well, I think she is a political rock star. She got enormous attention and support from a big chunk of the country as the vice presidential candidate. And she has sustained that. In part, it's because she has tapped into a kind of base-level feeling about the role and scope of government. She speaks bluntly and plainly in ways people can understand.

FINEMAN: What is she saying about government?

PAWLENTY: Amongst other things, that it is too big and too bureaucratic and too burdensome.

FINEMAN: Well, you say the same thing.

PAWLENTY: Yes, but we live in a society in which being familiar, being well known, gives you a platform. She certainly has that. The Democrats have all kinds of characters who are interesting, bold, and dramatic. On our side, you guys are obsessed with Palin.

FINEMAN: Until literally hours before the convention, you were seen as the most likely pick to be Sen. John McCain's running mate. When did you realize you wouldn't be?

When they didn't take me out of the slot to speak in Denver outside the Democratic convention only days before ours was starting. I didn't just fall off the rutabaga cart, so I figured it out.

FINEMAN: Did McCain explain to you why he picked her?


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