Pawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota

Pawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota
© Getty Images

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) ruled out running for the Senate seat vacated by Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenVirginia can be better than this Harris off to best start among Dems in race, say strategists, donors Virginia scandals pit Democrats against themselves and their message MORE (D-Minn.), depriving Republicans of a strong candidate in an unexpected pickup opportunity on the midterm map.

“I am very interested in public service and service for the common good. There are a lot of ways to do that,” Pawlenty said in an interview with Fox Business Network.

“But I’ll tell you today that running for the United States Senate in 2018 won’t be part of those plans.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Pawlenty had been floated as a potential candidate to run for the seat, given that's he's won election in Minnesota before as a statewide candidate. Pawlenty didn’t run for a third term as governor in 2010 and instead unsuccessfully ran for president in 2012.

He also has strong ties to GOP donors and the national party.

His decision not to run for the Senate seat following Franken’s resignation after multiple sexual misconduct allegations is another bad sign for Republicans going into what looks like a difficult midterm election.

Two incumbent House Republicans announced their retirements last week in a sign that both thought they might lose reelection.

Separately, Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerSenators highlight threat from invasive species Overnight Defense: Top general wasn't consulted on Syria withdrawal | Senate passes bill breaking with Trump on Syria | What to watch for in State of the Union | US, South Korea reach deal on troop costs GOP senators think Trump would win vote on emergency declaration MORE (R-N.D.) decided not to take on Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (D-N.D.), who on paper looks like a vulnerable candidate in the midterms given that President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff urges GOP colleagues to share private concerns about Trump publicly US-China trade talks draw criticism for lack of women in pictures Overnight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall MORE coasted to victory in North Dakota. 

In explaining his decision, Pawlenty said he would only have had less than a year to mount a campaign in a “tough” state for Republicans. No Republican candidate has won statewide in Minnesota since 2006, though Trump came close to winning the state in the 2016 presidential race.

“I certainly appreciate that kind of encouragement and people thinking of me in those terms. But if anybody’s going to run for United States Senate this November, that’s now only 10 months away and it’s going to a be a very competitive race and tough state for Republicans,” Pawlenty said.  

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina SmithTina Flint SmithContractor back pay not included in shutdown deal Push to include contractor back pay in funding deal hits GOP roadblock Dems seeking path to Senate majority zero-in on Sun Belt MORE (D) was appointed to fill the seat until the November elections and she’s also running to fill out the remainder of Franken’s term which expires in 2020.

Franken’s seat isn’t the only Senate seat that Minnesota Democrats will need to defend. Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharHarry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus Gillibrand to appear on Fox News Monday night Overnight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run MORE (D-Minn.), who has been floated as a potential presidential contender, is up for reelection in 2018, though she’s expected to easily hold onto her seat.

Senate Democrats will mostly be on defense this cycle, with 10 incumbents up for reelection in states where Trump won in 2016. Franken’s resignation gave Republicans a glimmer of hope that they could flip a seat in Minnesota.

Other Minnesota Republicans have indicated some interest in the race, though Pawlenty would have likely been the party’s best shot at the open-seat race.

Former Rep. Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannGillibrand becomes latest candidate scrutinized for how she eats on campaign trail Trump will give State of Union to sea of opponents Yes, condemn Roseanne, but ignoring others is true hypocrisy MORE (R-Minn.) said in early January that she’s considering a Senate run.