(MINNEAPOLIS) — Despite a flurry of speculation about whether Mitt Romney will name his running mate this week, one of the top contenders for the job insisted that politics was the furthest thing from his mind.
“I’m in contact with Governor Romney from time to time, but this week I’m focused on some yard work and some business things,” Pawlenty said in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Tuesday.
Pawlenty, who over the last year has transitioned from one of Romney’s fiercest rivals to one of his biggest advocates, offered few clues about the swirling rumors that his is one of just a few names at the top of Romney’s list of possible running mates.
“The process will unfold in due course,” Pawlenty said. “I’m sure governor Romney and his team will let you all know when the announcement’s coming, but that’s not something that I can comment on.”
He acknowledged, however, that he was experiencing “a little bit of déjà vu,” recalling how he was the subject of similar speculation four years ago when Sen. John McCain was preparing to select his vice presidential nominee — a spot that ultimately went to Sarah Palin.
Outside his home south of Minneapolis on Tuesday, Pawlenty was casually dressed in a white tee shirt and baseball cap. He did not look concerned about whether he will be tapped to be Romney’s running mate. Instead, he seemed more focused on walking his dog and going about his everyday business.
Some political observers have noted that Romney might be able to squash some of the negative headlines about his failure to commit to releasing more than two years of tax returns by naming his vice presidential candidate this week. But in his interview on Tuesday, Pawlenty declined to echo the calls of other prominent Republicans that Romney should release additional years of his returns, saying that two years was “reasonable.”
“That’s basically been the standard for Republican nominees for president,” Pawlenty said.
Pawlenty was unable to recall how many years of tax returns he handed over to the McCain campaign when he was being vetted for vice president in 2008.
“I don’t remember the specific number of years,” Pawlenty told Mitchell. “I know I provided some tax returns going back a number of years, but I don’t know if it was three or five. I don’t think it was probably more than that.”
Pawlenty was circumspect about his own views on who Romney should choose as his Number Two, saying that “geography is one of many factors [at which] a candidate might look.”
He also acknowledged that his Minnesota roots were unlikely to offer much of an electoral boost to Romney if historical voting patterns hold true. The state has not voted for a GOP presidential nominee since 1972.
“It’s the longest unbroken streak of voting for a Democrat of any state in the nation including Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawaii and California,” Pawlenty lamented. “I love my state. It’s filled with great people, but it unfortunately has the longest unbroken streak of voting for a Democratic candidate for president of any state in the nation.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ruth Brown, Idaho Press-Tribune
Shelbie Harris, Idaho State Journal
Tom LoBianco, Deirdre Walsh and Tal Kopan, CNN