After flirting with national office in 2008 – as a purported finalist on John McCain’s short list of Vice-Presidential nominees – Tim Pawlenty has the luxury of governing a state in which gubernatorial elections are conducted in presidential off-year cycles.
Governor Pawlenty has stated that he is not going to announce whether or not he will run for reelection until 2009. However, presuming he still wishes to be involved in politics as an officeholder, the odds are fair to good that he will indeed seek a third term.
Should Pawlenty also have national ambitions and get the itch to run for President, he would be able to do so without technically jeopardizing his gubernatorial career or reelection campaign. However, launching a 2011 campaign for the presidency after releection in 2010 might be seen as a bit unseemly by DFLers; no doubt it would surely be a campaign issue in his reelection bid.
But a run for a third term per se would not be unprecented in Minnesota political history. Seven Gopher State Governors have each won three consecutive gubernatorial elections, although each were for two-year terms:
· Republican John S. Pillsbury (1875, 1877, 1879)
· Democrat John A. Johnson (1904, 1906, 1908)
· Republican Theodore Christianson (1924, 1926, 1928)
· Farmor-Laborite Floyd B. Olson (1930, 1932, 1934)
· Republican Harold E. Stassen (1938, 1940, 1942)
· Republican Luther W. Youngdahl (1946, 1948, 1950)
· DFLer Orville L. Freeman (1954, 1956, 1958)
Freeman was also the DFL nominee on the losing side of elections bookending his gubernatorial reign: in 1952 and 1960. An eighth governor, DFLer Rudy Perpich, ran for a third term and lost in 1990.
If reelected in 2010, Pawlenty would thus be the longest serving Governor in state history (whether or not he serves out the entirety of a third term).
And as for Pawlenty’s presidential credentials, while he may not be the freshest of faces for which the GOP is looking to lead their Party in 2012 (e.g. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal; Alaska Governor Sarah Palin), the Minnesota Governor duly impressed the Party (and the national media) in 2006 by staving off defeat in a Democratic wave election year.
And a track record of being able to come out on the winning side of a battleground state might indeed be a prerequisite for the next Republican presidential nominee.