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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 Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate Dems face unity test; Tanden nomination falls Gillibrand: Cuomo allegations 'completely unacceptable' Schumer: Allegations against Cuomo 'serious, very troubling' 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 CramerSenate braces for 'God-awful,' 'stupid' session ahead of COVID-19 relief vote Ron Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many Senate votes to take up COVID-19 relief bill MORE (R-N.D.) decided not to take on Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampCentrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives Harrison seen as front-runner to take over DNC at crucial moment Biden to tap Vilsack for Agriculture secretary: reports MORE (D-N.D.), who on paper looks like a vulnerable candidate in the midterms given that President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Albany Times Union editorial board calls for Cuomo's resignation Advocates warn restrictive voting bills could end Georgia's record turnout 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 SmithSen. Tina Smith calls for eliminating filibuster Senator notices mismatching shoes at trial: 'I had a lot on my mind' Overnight Energy: Biden administration delays Trump rollback of migratory bird protections | Democrats seek to block further Arctic drilling | Democratic senator pushes for clean electricity standard 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 KlobucharHillicon Valley: China implicated in Microsoft breach | White House adds Big Tech critic | QAnon unfazed after false prediction FDA signals plan to address toxic elements in baby food Sen. Tina Smith calls for eliminating filibuster 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 BachmannEvangelicals shouldn't be defending Trump in tiff over editorial Mellman: The 'lane theory' is the wrong lane to be in White House backs Stephen Miller amid white nationalist allegations MORE (R-Minn.) said in early January that she’s considering a Senate run.