Pawlenty: Stop worrying about bus tours

GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty said Friday that people should be less worried about Sarah Palin's political future and more concerned about debating the issues.

Pawlenty was asked about his lagging poll numbers and whether he thinks Palin (R), the former Alaska governor, will enter the field, considering her upcoming nationwide bus tour.

"Who knows? I don't know if she's running or not," Pawlenty said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" during a campaign stop in New York City. "We need to quit worrying about polls and bus tours and get onto the issue of how we're going to fix the country and get the country back on track."

Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor, downplayed talk about Palin as he looks to gain attention for his campaign in an up-for-grabs GOP presidential field. 

But several Republicans have expressed unhappiness with their choices, prompting speculation a dark-horse candidate could enter the race. And should Palin run, her presence could dramatically shake up the field.

Meanwhile, a recent Gallup poll showed Pawlenty receiving only 6 percent support among Republicans, trailing Herman Cain, a Tea Party-backed dark-horse candidate. That same poll showed Palin in second among all GOP candidates, at 15 percent.

Pawlenty, who will visit Iowa on Monday, said that regardless of Palin's decision, potential candidates on the sidelines should enter the race sooner rather than later so that the GOP can sharpen its message against President Obama.

"Whoever's going to get in, I hope they get in soon," he said. "I want the field to be set, so we can have the real debate."

The Minnesotan took a few jabs at Obama for failing to lead on Medicare, an issue that Democrats have used to pressure Republican candidates, including Pawlenty. 

"We've got the leader of our nation basically absent from the debate," he said. "We've got to fix Medicare as well, and Obama is ducking the issue."

— This post was updated at 8:45 a.m.

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