Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty still will not say definitively whether he will run as a Republican candidate in the 2012 presidential election, but emphasized in an interview he wants no part of intraparty skirmishes criticizing Sen. John McCain and other potential hopefuls.
“I’ve known John McCain for 20 years,” he said Tuesday on The Washington Times’ “America’s Morning News” radio show. “He has served our country as a person in the military, a prisoner of war. He’s a patriot. He’s fought hard for this country in the Senate. … The bottom line is he has served this nation with incredible valor and courage.”
Such a position distances Mr. Pawlenty, 49, from many of the Republican Party’s most powerful factions – including many “tea party” activists and media personalities such as Fox TV host Glenn Beck and talk-radio personality Rush Limbaugh. Mr. McCain himself faces a strong primary challenge from conservative talk-show host and former Rep. J.D. Hayworth in his bid for a fifth Senate term.
Mr. Pawlenty, who has endorsed Mr. McCain in his re-election bid, also refrained from criticizing another GOP presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney, who as Massachusetts governor enacted a state-level health care reform that many Democrats claim resembles the one President Obama has just signed into law.
“We should just focus on what works,” he said. “If you look at the Massachusetts experience, clearly they expanded access [to health care]. But I think even the supporters of the program would acknowledge they didn’t control costs.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Pawlenty, a three-term governor not seeking re-election, said he has his own problems with Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul. He voiced support for an effort by at least 13 other states pondering a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the new law. But he added that only Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson can decide whether to join the suit and she has not announced her decision.
“I’m hopeful she’ll join, but I’m not sure,” Mr. Pawlenty said. “We’re going to have to consider other options if she declines.”
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