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 FrankenLankford to be named next Senate Ethics chairman The job no GOP senator wants: 'I'd rather have a root canal' Take Trump literally and seriously in Minnesota 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 CramerOn The Money: Lawmakers strike spending deal | US, China reach limited trade deal ahead of tariff deadline | Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst over new NAFTA Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst on trade deal Republicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-N.D.) decided not to take on Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampPro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states MORE (D-N.D.), who on paper looks like a vulnerable candidate in the midterms given that President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' 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 will win back the Senate majority in 2020, all thanks to President Trump On The Money: Fed faces crossroads as it weighs third rate cut | Dem presses Mnuchin on 'alleged rampant corruption' | Boeing chief faces anger at hearing | Trouble for House deal on Ex-Im Bank Democrats renew push for contractor back pay from government shutdown 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 KlobucharBooker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications Democrats threaten to skip next debate over labor dispute Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial 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 BachmannMellman: The 'lane theory' is the wrong lane to be in White House backs Stephen Miller amid white nationalist allegations Klobuchar urges CNN town hall audience: 'That's when you guys are supposed to cheer, OK?' MORE (R-Minn.) said in early January that she’s considering a Senate run.