Pawlenty: I’m focused on yard work

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty on MSNBC this afternoon refused to comment on whether he’s gotten “the call” from Mitt Romney for a possible spot on the Republican ticket.

An MSNBC blog analyzes Pawlenty’s strengths and weakness as a vice presidential candidate:

STRENGTHS: Though once a rival for the GOP presidential nomination, Pawlenty has become a constant and loyal surrogate for the Romney campaign. His conservative credentials are rock-solid, which would please the GOP base (opposes abortion and same-sex marriage, is an evangelical Christian). His Midwest roots and clear middle-class/working-class background (his mother died when he was 16; his father lost his job at a trucking company) could be advantageous to Romney. As someone who has run for president before, Pawlenty is more than familiar with the national scrutiny and high-profile debates.. Could he put Minnesota in play? On the one hand, he’s a former two-term governor of the state. On the other hand, he never received 50% or more in those two races. In 2006, he barely won re-election against challenger Mike Hatch (D), 47%-46%, and he might have lost had not Hatch referred to a female reporter as a “Republican whore” right before the election. In 2008, by comparison, Obama won Minnesota, 54%-44%.

WEAKNESSES: There are some holes in his conservative record (signed 75-cent fee on cigarettes into law, once championed initiatives to reduce greenhouse gases). How much do conservatives really like Pawlenty? Remember that despite going all-in to win it, he finished a disappointing third to Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul at the 2011 Ames Straw Poll; the day after that third-place finish, Pawlenty dropped out of the presidential race. How much does Pawlenty owe Romney? According to an analysis by USA Today, more than half of the political donations Pawlenty received after he suspended his campaign — to pay down his debt — came from Romney donors. Pawlenty recently joined the board of Smart Sand, a Pennsylvania firm that has built a large frac sand plant in Wisconsin. That sand is used in a controversial process to extract natural gas from rock.