Washington (CNN) - Outgoing Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said this week that he regrets not seeking a third term in St. Paul, now that the state legislature is controlled by Republicans instead of the Democrat-Farmer-Labor party that fought much of his agenda.
"Yes," was the straightforward answer Pawlenty gave when asked by the Duluth News Tribune editorial board earlier this week whether he wished he had sought another term.
"If I would have known then what I know now," the Republican said, and "given what I've been through and hoped to accomplish, but that (the DFL-controlled legislature) blocked. But you can't predict the future.
"And of course, I made my decision after the 2008 election when President Obama and the Democrats swept everything," he continued, according to the paper. "I looked at that and (decided against) having to go over there and ram heads with (DFL Sen. Larry) Pogemiller and (DFL Rep. Margaret Anderson) Kelliher and their like. (There was a) high probability of that. Hindsight is 20/20."
Pawlenty declined to seek a third term as governor in July 2009, a move widely interpreted as the first step toward a White House run in 2012. Pawlenty has surrounded himself with a team of top political strategists and has made repeated trips to the key nominating states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
His answer is not the sort of thing one would expect to hear from a likely presidential candidate, since running for the most powerful job in the world requires projecting a healthy air of decisiveness and self-assurance.
The remark is something his potential rivals for the GOP nomination might remind him of next year as they jostle for position in what's likely to be a wide open field.
It should be noted, though, that Pawlenty appeared to be a reflective mood as he wrapped up a two-day farewell tour around the state, looking back on his two terms in interviews with various media outlets.
And, as the Duluth paper noted, Pawlenty all but admitted he's seeking the GOP nomination in an interview earlier in the week.
"If I don't run for president I'm going to open a margarita bar in south Florida and play Kenny Chesney music," Pawlenty told KAAL-TV in Rochester, Minnesota on Tuesday.