Gov. Tim Pawlenty is expected to announce today that he will not seek re-election in Minnesota in 2010, according to local CBS affiliate WCCO, making it more likely that he will run for president in 2012. The news also could have potential implications for the recount battle between Norm Coleman and Al Franken. Lawyers for the two Senate candidates duked it out in the Minnesota Supreme Court yesterday, and if the judges rule in Franken’s favor, Pawlenty will face the decision of whether to certify the election result or allow time for Coleman to appeal the decision in federal court. Now that he doesn’t have to worry about facing Minnesota voters next year (and could very well be concerned with the Republican presidential primary electorate), he may be more likely to delay the certification.
Pawlenty, a converted evangelical Christian who appeals to working-class voters, could perform well in his neighboring state of Iowa in the 2012 caucuses, depending on the composition of the field. For instance, he would be competing for many of the same voters as Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin, so should all three run, it could carve up those votes and allow a Mitt Romney to pull off a victory this time. If the field is cleared for him, however, he’d fare better. Either way, he’d likely be a strong contender in the state. The trick will be how he performs beyond Iowa, and whether he can overcome criticism that he is a big government Republican, as well as the sense among many that he’s kinda boring and goofy (cue awkward joke about his lack of sex life). In fairness to him, his record on taxes and spending is a lot more conservative than you’d expect given some of his rhetoric, and he did oppose the economic stimulus package. For more on Pawlenty, I direct you to a profile I wrote about him for the Washington Post‘s Who Run’s Gov site.