Minnesota Governor Pawlenty says won't seek third term

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Republican Tim Pawlenty said on Tuesday he would not seek a third term as Minnesota’s governor but deflected questions about whether he would run for U.S. president in 2012.

Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota speaks during a luncheon at the 2008 Republican Governors Association Annual Conference in Miami November 12, 2008. REUTERS/Hans Deryk

“I’m not ruling anything in or out,” the 48-year-old Pawlenty told reporters in Minnesota, adding he planned to offer his party new ideas.

“I have 19 months left in my term -- this is not a wake,” Pawlenty said, joking that he planned to tend to his lawn.

A lawyer and state legislator elected governor in 2002 and re-elected four years later, Pawlenty was an early supporter of Republican presidential nominee John McCain and was considered a potential running mate for the Arizona senator.

McCain, who went on to lose the 2008 election to Democrat Barack Obama, instead chose Alaska Governor Sarah Palin who, along with Republicans Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, are considered potential presidential candidates in 2012.

“I think we need new ideas and new faces in the party. It’s something I’m going to do as a volunteer,” Pawlenty said. “We have to be a party of addition not subtraction, and I think I can help with that effort.”

Pawlenty has pleased many conservative Republicans on issues such as cutting taxes and spending in the Midwest state and pursuing merit pay for teachers, but he went against the party by pushing for sizable increases in renewable energy.

One of five children of a milk truck driver, Pawlenty’s mother died of cancer when he was 16. He went on to the University of Minnesota and earned a law degree.

The New York Times has said he had a “direct, everyman appeal to ordinary people” though critics say he lacks the charisma. Pawlenty has urged fellow Republicans to become “the party of Sam’s Club” not just the country club.

On Tuesday, he said being governor “should not be a permanent position” and that he would try to help elect a Republican to succeed him.

Pawlenty said he could have won a third term, with polls showing him with a 53 percent approval rating and favored to beat potential Democratic challengers. He won 3-way race in 2006 with 1 pct margin.

One possible successor could be former U.S. Senator Norm Coleman, the Republican whose challenge of a recount favoring Democrat Al Franken for the vital Senate post is before Minnesota’s supreme court.

Pawlenty denied feeling any pressure to certify Franken or to delay certification. Seating Franken in the 100-member U.S. Senate would give the Democrats control of the 60 votes needed to pass their legislative agenda without Republican roadblocks.

“I’m going to do whatever the court says,” Pawlenty said. “I’m not going to hold it up or delay it in any fashion. So that presents no problem for me at all.”

Editing by Michael Conlon and Philip Barbara