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Pawlenty: Decision in 2011

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty told a national television audience Sunday that he likely will decide whether to run for president early next year.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," the Republican governor told host David Gregory the same thing he has told Minnesota reporters since announcing that he would not run for re-election: "I don't know what I will do after I am done being governor."

Pawlenty appeared on the "Meet the Press" set in Washington after speaking this weekend to a conservative organization influential in GOP politics.

Gregory introduced Pawlenty by saying that he "made his national debut of sorts" at the convention, although Pawlenty has been in nearly 20 states in recent months, including the early presidential caucus and primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

He says he is traveling the country on behalf of his Freedom First political action committee, saying he is doing it to help other Republicans. However, most political observers seem to think he is testing the waters for a presidential run.

Those taking part in the conservative convention's straw poll, not nearly all attending, put Pawlenty in fourth place in the GOP race.

Most of Pawlenty's "Meet the Press" interview was a rehash of what he has said in Minnesota and in speeches elsewhere in recent months.

Americans are not happy with President Barack Obama, Pawlenty said. "Obviously the country is saying ... 'this isn't what we bargained for'"

On the other hand, Republicans were not controlling spending when they were in charge. "We got fired for a reason."

The GOP must do more than hope that "President Obama keeps kicking it into the dugout," Pawlenty said, encouraging his party to come up with new ideas.

Pawlenty criticized Democrats in Washington for their economic stimulus programs, saying they just transfer money. He said the economic solution should come from cutting taxes and taking other actions to help small businesses hire more people, things he proposes in Minnesota.

The governor warned that a second economic dip may be possible, even after Americans see an improvement this year.

On the heels of his veto of a program to help some of Minnesota's poorest get free medical care, he told Gregory that the country needs to cut all spending other than for defense. That would include programs like the one he vetoed Friday.

Health-care reform plans being debated in Congress would turn too much of the decision-making power over to Washington, he said. "The answer isn't to have the federal government take it over. ... They will goof it up."

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.