Pawlenty says Minnesota will get his full attention
ST. PAUL — Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Thursday discounted talk about any future in national office after winning a second term in an election season unfavorable toward Republicans.
At a news conference, he said his "complete focus and total focus" will be on serving as governor, and he also restated his commitment to serving a full four years. Pawlenty was asked about his name appearing on pundits’ lists of vice presidential possibilities.
"Which list? My wife said I was on a different list," he joked, adding later, "I am not worried about or focused on national elective office."
GOP state Chairman Ron Carey said Pawlenty might have trouble avoiding the speculation.
"He is one of the more talented Republicans nationwide," Carey said. "He is a rising star in the national Republican Party, that’s just a fact. What that translates into and the timing, that’s anybody’s guess."
Pawlenty begins his second term facing Democratic majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. He plans to spend the next two eonths meeting with legislative leaders and rank-and-file lawmakers to map out a common agenda.
But he also is likely to enjoy a far better fiscal climate than the deep deficit that greeted him in his first term.
State finance officials intend to release a new budget forecast later this month. There are indications that it will predict a surplus. The state ended its last fiscal year with extra money in the bank.
"It’s a welcome change because for the first time we’re not just focused on crisis management," he said.
The governor said funding for schools and state health care programs lead his priority list.
Pawlenty was joined at the news conference by Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau, who said she plans to keep her other role as transportation commissioner.