About 200 Republican bold-faced names crowded into former RNC chairman Ken Mehlman's Georgetown townhouse last night for an event that one attendee said "felt like the kick-off for Pawlenty for Vice President." Officially, the bill was a fundraiser for Pawlenty's gubernatorial re-election. As the Politico's Mike Allen notes, the Republican government-in-exile all came together: former rep/lobbyist Vin Weber, former White House political director Sara Taylor and major McCain advisers/fundraisers Fred Malek and Wayne Berman. Senior Congressional and White House staffers with Minnesota connections were also invited.
To his guests, Mehlman wondered why so many people would show up on a beautiful night in DC to hang with the governor of Minnesota. But then, Mehlman said, with tongue planted in cheek, that he heard the governor's wife call him "45."
"45" -- as in, the next, next president of the United States, after 43's successor -- John McCain (or Mehlman's old Harvard Law School buddy, Barack Obama) will serve as 44.
Mehlman's not endorsing anyone for veep here -- he remains very close to Ex-Rep. Rob Portman and to Gov. Mitt Romney, among other potential picks.
Also, some of the A-listers who attended, like former White House chief of staff Ken Duberstein and former RGA executive director Phil Musser are committed supporters of Romney's.
Pawlenty was introduced by his wife Mary. His speech, according to attendees, focused on how "the GOP can better win working class democrats in the context of his Minnesota electoral experience and model for governance.
“He stressed health care, energy, and the environment," said one donor. Pawlenty also talked about his roots -- his working class beginnings -- as a way to lay the groundwork for that. (Mr. Pawlenty, you’ll recall, coined the phrase “Sam’s Club Republicans.” ((Update: ** -- Actually, this is untrue -- the words were coined by my colleague Reihan Salam.))
Those close to Pawlenty say that he gets a kick out of the vice presidential talk. "But I don't think he's lobbying for it," one close friend says. Indeed, Pawlenty has yet to subject himself to the media schedule that a potential vice presidential nominee generally finds himself following.
There've been few national television appearances, almost no extended interviews, and very few surrogates making the rounds. If he's angling for the job, he's doing it quietly.
Last night's event raised $46,000 for the governor's re-election committee.