Pawlenty, who was on John McCain's short list for vice president, is on every great mention list for 2012 GOP candidates. "I don't know what I'm going to do be doing three years from now," demurs Pawlenty, who announced last month he will not run for a third term next year. He says he wants to travel the country and speak out on issues, but beyond that, "I don't know what my future holds."
Pawlenty acknowledged that the GOP is struggling. The president is popular, the Democrats control the government, and the GOP is the victim of several self-inflicted wounds, namely Ensign and Sanford. "If the Republican party were a sports team and the coach and general manager were sitting here, he or she would say, 'It's a rebuilding year. We gotta get some new draft picks, we gotta make some trades, we gotta do things differently.' "
One question is whether Pawlenty, a married father of two who's a convert to evangelical Christianianty, would be able to claim that his is the party of family values. Pawlenty insists it can, but concedes that Sanford makes this positioning more complex, at least for now. "For Republicans and others, if you say you're about one thing and you do something else, people don't like that. It's a basic fact of life...We're going to have to earn back the support of the American voter, that's for sure."
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