ST. PAUL, Minn. — Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Wednesday definitively ruled out a 2012 campaign for the U.S. Senate after ending his Republican bid for the White House a few days ago.
Some Republicans, including state GOP chairman Tony Sutton, were hoping Pawlenty would get right back into the ring and take on freshman Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar next year.
"I don't know what I will be doing next," Pawlenty said in an email to The Associated Press. "However, I will not be running against Amy in 2012."
While still a presidential candidate last week, Pawlenty told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis he didn't have interest in the Klobuchar race. But Republicans saw a renewed chance to recruit him after he left the presidential race Sunday.
Pawlenty, 50, ended his campaign after finishing third in an Iowa Republican straw poll. He had spent many months and millions building his campaign following two terms as Minnesota governor.
Republican leaders are trying to build a field of possible rivals to Klobuchar, who has strong public approval ratings and more than $3 million stocked up so far.
Former state Rep. Dan Severson is the only Republican to step forward. He was the party's unsuccessful nominee for secretary of state in 2010.
Sutton said Monday he planned to give Pawlenty time to decompress before making his Senate pitch.
"I think he'd be a heck of a candidate for U.S. Senate," Sutton said.
Even though Pawlenty notched two statewide wins, he never captured a majority of the Minnesota vote because of strong third-party candidates. Had he jumped into the Senate race, he was facing the prospect of a head-to-head contest with Klobuchar in a state where Democrats haven't lost a statewide race since 2006.
Some Republicans weren't enamored with the idea of another Pawlenty campaign so soon.
At a GOP rally in Cannon Falls on Monday, Bev Moreland of Cottage Grove and Tricia Fischer of Bloomington discouraged the Pawlenty for Senate talk.
"He's too moderate," Moreland said.
"A career change is definitely in order," Fischer said.
Pawlenty hasn't closed the door to a political comeback further down the road. In 2014, the governor's office he previously held and Sen. Al Franken's seat are on the line. A cabinet post in a potential Republican administration could also be a good fit for the wonkish Pawlenty.
Already, Pawlenty has declared himself disinterested in the vice presidential slot in 2012 after being on John McCain's short list four years earlier.
"I've been down that road," Pawlenty told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday. "That's not something I'm even going to consider."
Pawlenty was a lawyer before entering politics, but his license in Minnesota lapsed while he was governor and would need to be renewed before he could return to the courtroom.
But he appears to have a financial cushion while he decides his next move: Pawlenty scooped up more than $242,000 in speaking fees in the first six months of 2011 and collected an additional $342,000 in book royalties from his autobiography, according to a disclosure form that became public the day after he dropped out of the 2012 race.