(CNN) – Minnesota’s Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is widely considered to be a likely contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, said Sunday that he does not view himself as being in competition with his party’s most recent vice presidential nominee, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Asked about his own 2012 plans, Pawlenty was coy and judicious, suggesting that his recent travels to many states likely to be important in the next White House race were because of his duties as the vice chair of the Republican Governors Association.
“Part of my responsibility,” Pawlenty told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King on Sunday’s State of the Union, “is to travel the country when appropriate, as time allows, to help Republican candidates for governor get elected or re elected. So that’s part of it. And, as time allows, I’m going to speak to issues that I think my party needs to improve on – both here in Minnesota and nationally. I believe that’s an important opportunity and responsibility.”
But Pawlenty was clear that he does not view himself as competing with former Gov. Palin.
The former Alaska governor is “a friend,” Pawlenty told King, “I don’t view her as somebody who’s a competitor for anything. I view her as a teammate.”
Pressed on his view of himself relative to Palin, Pawlenty reiterated, “I view her as a friend. And I think she’s somebody who has been a remarkable leader in Alaska under difficult circumstances. I don’t know what the future holds for her.”
Pawlenty also appeared to hold no ill will over Sen. John McCain’s reported decision to pick Gov. Palin over Gov. Pawlenty for the vice presidential nod on last year’s Republican ticket.
“I’m a huge fan of Sen. McCain. I think he made the choice he felt was right for not only his ticket but for the country in the circumstances of the time,” said Pawlenty. The Minnesota Republican added that he did not think McCain made a mistake in choosing Palin as his running mate.