When did Pawlenty decide to run? He's not sure
May 20th, 2011
12:05 PM ET
7 years ago

When did Pawlenty decide to run? He's not sure

(CNN) – Tim Pawlenty is set to announce he's running for president on Monday, but does he need a better answer as to why?

The former Minnesota governor is taking heat from Iowa Democrats after what appeared to some as a bungled answer to our sister publication Time Magazine when asked when he decided he was "up to the grand challenge of the presidency."

Pawlenty responded by noting he had set up a political action committee two years ago. But pressed further on when and how he came to the realization he had what it takes to carry the burdens of the presidency, the former governor said, "I don't know, I wish I had a good answer for you on that."

Pawlenty, who's 50 years-old, added he felt a responsibility upon leaving the governor's office at a young age not to merely "go make some money and play hockey and drink beer."

That answer doesn't pass muster for the Iowa Democratic Party:

"Tim Pawlenty is ready to 'endure the national stage's harsh tool' because, eh, why not," Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky said.

Pawlenty is set to make his formal presidential announcement in Iowa on Monday.

UPDATE: Michael Crowley, the Time reporter, tweeted that Democrats are taking the excerpt out of context:

@crowleytime DNC hit on TPaw distorts what he said to me about running: "I don't know" referred to when he first saw self as a prez–not WHY he's running

Here's the full exchange as recounted by Time:

And when I ask Pawlenty, during a second interview in Des Moines, Iowa, exactly when he decided he was up to the grand challenge of the presidency, he answers in less than grandiose terms, explaining how he'd set up a political-action committee in 2009. I try again, saying I am curious about when he first imagined himself worthy of the history books, ready to send soldiers to their deaths and endure the national stage's harsh toll. "I don't know," he replies. "I wish I had a good answer for you on that." Pawlenty says it is not an idea that crossed his mind 15 or 20 years ago but that as he considered life as a relatively young ex-governor, he felt obliged not to take the easy path and "go make some money and play hockey and drink beer." He adds that he almost didn't run at all. "Mary and I talked about this at length, and many times, and it was a close call," he says, mentioning his wife of 24 years. He adds with a laugh, "It could have gone the other way for all the reasons you're suggesting."

Filed under: Tim Pawlenty
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Anthony

    Right after the media called the 2008 election for Obama. Ask Minnesotans. He had not been seen in their state since.

    May 20, 2011 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    And why did nobody vote for Little Timmeh Pawlenty?

    Because he's not sure.

    May 20, 2011 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  3. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Tim Pawlenty is ready to 'endure the national stage's harsh tool' because, eh, why not," Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky said."

    Well, Sue, there is this: Timmy certainly won't be having to the endure the national stage's harsh challenge for very long. No doubt the better poltical decison for him would have been the whole *I could have taken the playing hockey and drinking beer* route. Thing is, we in Minnesota have always known that Pawlenty never has had a good answer for anything. Why should running for the highest office in America - nay the world - be any different? Ego in - ego out, and nothing but empty space in between.

    May 20, 2011 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  4. jk from MN

    Probably when he narrowly won his last term as MN governor. The way he kicked the MN budget deficit can down the road for the current Governor and legislature (delaying payments to local governments and schools, etc) to deal with............look out America – he's not a budget solver.

    May 20, 2011 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    When? When he realized that keeping a memoir of his campaign (he is really aiming at the VP slot) would make a good topic for another book.

    May 20, 2011 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  6. BB

    Understandable...especially since lukewarm dish rag Pawlenty has never been sure about anything ... ever. Seems to me that he already announced on Piers Morgan's show, and nobody cared one way or the other about it. He flamed out embarrassingly in '08. He is already out of '12, whether he knows it or not. Might as well not even bother.

    May 20, 2011 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  7. Democrat Class Warfare - Destroying the economy, destroying the country

    That answer doesn't pass muster for the Iowa Democratic Party:
    Oh honestly! Would ANY answer pass muster of these Democrat imbeciles? Why is this even being reported? When did Obama decide to run? When he thought he had a good chance of winning and destroying the country?

    May 20, 2011 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  8. GI Joe

    He can live free on his campaign contributions from corporations. Sure beats the unemployment line. Pays better, too.

    May 20, 2011 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  9. GM

    I love how people immediately admonish any Republican candidate or potential candidate well before they ever give them a chance to state where they stand on the issues. That includes you CNN and Time – you've done a great job of covering non-issues so far in the 2012 campaigns. When you choose to start covering topics of substance, I'll devote more of my time to browsing your outlet for information. Until then, I'll probably continue to look elsewhere.

    May 20, 2011 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  10. PalmReader

    "Lookie here Mama. Tim Pawlenty is running for President" ...

    "Eh, who's running?" ...

    "TIM PAWLENTY!!!" ...

    "Oh. Who is Tim Pawlenty, Papa????" ...

    [Sigh] ... "No one that matters."

    May 20, 2011 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  11. daryl

    TIm Pawlenty is a good decent family man. Any one who has spoken to him would know that. He had to handle Minnesota's financial crisis by toeing the line against legislature bent on spending more. Tough decisions make for harsh criticism. Mr. Pawlenty faced them down and he helped change the course of high spending in a state already known for high taxes. It saddens me to see so many take unwarranted and unexplainable shots at him with no facts or perspective.

    May 20, 2011 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    "When did Pawlenty decide to run?"

    After his wife read him a bedtime story about how much fun Jane and Spot were having.

    See Timmeh run...

    May 20, 2011 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  13. Texas Doc

    I think you (CNN) ought to reframe the question as: Why did he choose to run? I realize that when you look at the current GOP Presedential field you might be inclined to say "What the hell, I'm in". No one knows him and no one cares.

    May 20, 2011 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  14. Phil in KC

    OK – so maybe Dvorsky took a few liberties with the quote, twisted them a little. But that's nothing compared to what the Republicans have been doing since Clinton was elected, let alone Obama. The Dems are just providing a little tit for tat.

    May 20, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  15. me

    A poll conducted today by KSTP asks the question "would you vote for Pawlenty for the Presidency?" So far, 75% of respondents say no. Pawlenty couldn't even carry his own state.

    May 20, 2011 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  16. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Who cares?
    He's irrelevant even AFTER declaring his candidacy. He brings nothing to the table. He blew up Minnesota all kinds of ways: infrastructure neglected and in disrepair; in-state budget woes; AWOL for most of his tenure.
    Come on now! Stop trying to make a silk purse out of a roaches' ear.
    WHO CARES when he decided to run?!

    May 20, 2011 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  17. The Real Tom Paine

    Anyone with a sense of history remembers Ted Kennedy dooming himself in 1980 when asked a simiar question. The inability to answer "why"in any straight-forward manner that does not invoke the Almighty to this question should be a signal that he is NOT ready: never mind the fact he left Minnesota with a huge debt to deal with while he skipped off run for POTUS.

    May 20, 2011 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  18. MN Mom

    Here in MN we know EXACTLY when he decided. When McCain briefly looked Pawlenty's way in 2008 Pawlenty got the bug for MORE power (he already acted like a power-hungry dictator in his governance of MN - no compromise or reasonable thinking for Tim). He has barely been in the state of MN since and his governing from 2008 to 2010 was even worse than before because everything he did was done only for how it would play to the ultra-conservatives nationally. He did not even come close to solving our state's budget problems because to do so would have required compromise and revenue increases which would not have pleased the national Tea Partiers he was kissing up to. Pawlenty also tried to go around the state legislature and impose his will (drastic cuts aimed at the poor, elderly, disabled and uninsured of course) by using a loophole called "unallottment." Pawlenty's power grab was ruled unconstitutional by the MN Supreme Court (no activist court here it was split between democrat appointees, republican appointees and independent appointees - in fact the Chief Justice appointed by Pawlenty himself ruled that Pawlenty's power grab was unconstitutional). Pawlenty is more concerned about being powerful than about any state or any country. Just ask us living in the state he used to govern that is still trying to clean up the mess he left behind.

    May 20, 2011 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  19. Harry Baxter

    When? A better question is Why? If he's one of the serious contenders for the nomination, the GOP is in deep, deep doodoo.

    May 20, 2011 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  20. T in MN

    Give it up Tim, you'll never be ready. An the U.S. will never be ready for you. Into MN Gov office with $4.8Bn deficit from Jessie era. Pledged no new taxes – but property taxes up 60+% state-wide due to cash shuffles to avoid the "tax" word. Kicked the deficit down the road and left $5.1Bn deficit to new Gov.

    Infrastructure destroyed during his term. Mississippi bridge collapse, and three other Minneapolis bridges over the river also closed due to repair needs. One finally repaired and open 1yr later, one demolished – not salvageable, and third open only to foot/bike traffic.

    We don't need to know when he decides to run – he's the last person we'd want to be in the race.

    May 20, 2011 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  21. vic , nashville ,tn

    He is counting the empty seat in the bus, watching the size (capacity) of the passengers and how many through under the bus by FOX and right wing radio talk shows

    Simple he is doing his math except his ability run the nation

    Simple Tim Pawlenty is selfish

    May 20, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  22. timz

    In all seriousness, Jesse Ventura was a WAY more effective governor than Slick Timmy. Shouldn't that be your first clue that maybe you're not qualified to be President? Should you even need a second clue?

    May 20, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  23. fayse

    I predict that Pawlenty will not even carry his own State in the Primaries. Save your money and our time.

    May 20, 2011 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  24. AB

    Great!! Timmy Pawlenty is running a campaign for Prez but isn't sure when he started. What else is timmy not sure about? Sounds to me this is a campaign based on amnesia and not on sound ideas. If this clown gets the Republican nomination, Obama will have a field day and win hands down!!

    May 20, 2011 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  25. MN conbat vet

    What people on the national stage maybe don't realize is that Palwenty never even won 50% of the MN vote-both elections had 3 candidates-If running again, he would not have been elected this time, even against a rather weak Dem opponent. He has taken a state with top marks in education, infrastructure and quality of life and made us average at best. He's Wendel Wilke adieu

    May 20, 2011 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
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