Pawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota

Pawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota
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Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) ruled out running for the Senate seat vacated by Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Mexican officials scramble to avoid Trump tariffs The Hill's 12:30 Report: Mexican officials scramble to avoid Trump tariffs The Hill's Morning Report - Tariff battle looms as Trump jabs 'foolish' Senate GOP 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.”

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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 CramerThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump pushes Mexico for 'significantly more' as tariffs loom The Hill's Morning Report — Trump pushes Mexico for 'significantly more' as tariffs loom Overnight Health Care: Liberals rip Democratic leaders for writing drug pricing bill in secret | Dems demand answers from company that shelters migrant kids | Measles cases top 1,000 MORE (R-N.D.) decided not to take on Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampLobbying World Pro-trade group targets Democratic leadership in push for new NAFTA On The Money: Stocks sink on Trump tariff threat | GOP caught off guard by new trade turmoil | Federal deficit grew 38 percent this fiscal year | Banks avoid taking position in Trump, Dem subpoena fight MORE (D-N.D.), who on paper looks like a vulnerable candidate in the midterms given that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' 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 SmithDemocrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties Democrats push election security legislation after Mueller warning 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 KlobucharElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Julián Castro defends going on Fox: I'm focused on 'the people out there watching' 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 BachmannKlobuchar urges CNN town hall audience: 'That's when you guys are supposed to cheer, OK?' Michele Bachmann praises Trump: Americans will 'never see a more godly, biblical president' Michele Bachmann praises Trump: Americans will 'never see a more godly, biblical president' MORE (R-Minn.) said in early January that she’s considering a Senate run.