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Pawlenty 'not ruling anything in or out'

Photo by Don Davis Gov. Tim Pawlenty announces Tuesday that he will not run for a third term. The Minnesota Republican said he could have won, but two terms is enough.

ST. PAUL - Tim Pawlenty rules out another run for Minnesota governor, but keeps the door open for offices such as the presidency.

"I still have lots of energy and ideas," Pawlenty said to a packed Tuesday news conference. "But being governor should not be a permanent position for someone. When it comes to how long someone should stay in an elected position, a little less is better than too much."

The 48-year-old governor announced he will not seek a third four-year term -- something no one has done successfully -- but dodged questions from reporters around the country about whether he would run for president.

"I am not ruling anything in or out," he said, claiming not to know his next political step.

However, he said that he will be active in national Republican politics, including a Friday Washington speech to College Republicans.

"I'm going to try to lend voice to the need to raise issues and ideas for my party here and elsewhere, if I'm asked, because I think we need new ideas and faces in the party," he said.

The governor told reporters asking questions about his legacy that he will work hard for Minnesota in his remaining 19 months in office.

"This is not a wake," Pawlenty told journalists packed into the governor's reception room in larger numbers than for most news conferences.

Pawlenty has been prominent on the national scene for more than a year, beginning when John McCain considered him as a running mate. While the Minnesotan finished second to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, he has remained a regular on national news shows and on the GOP speaking circuit.

In Minnesota, Tuesday's announcement opens the doors for a wild 2010 governor's race. More than a dozen Democrats already are considering seeking the office, but political observers say even more will likely examine the race now.

And Republicans who would not seriously consider running for governor as long as Pawlenty thought about a third term now will begin to make their moves.

For instance, House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, is considering running. Today he plans to announce that he will not seek the leadership position again next year, increasing speculation that he will run for Pawlenty's job.

The governor said he made the announcement early so potential candidates had time to begin campaigning. But he said he would not pick a favorite immediately.

"It is the dawn of a new day," Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said about prospects for a new governor.

The governor, who said he made his decision within the last 10 days, spent 45 minutes answering questions from Minnesota reporters in the Capitol as well as state and national journalists hooked in via a telephone conference call. Most questions were about his presidential ambitions, and he handled each pretty much the same.

Pawlenty said he will focus on the 19 months he has remaining in office. "Beyond that, I don't have any plans," he said.

With Pawlenty were his wife, Mary, and daughters Anna, 16, and Mara, 12, along with Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau.

"I'm delighted with the decision," Mary Pawlenty said. "From our family standpoint, two terms is enough."

She deflected a question about whether her husband would be a good president, but one of Pawlenty's closest friends said Pawlenty would be good in the White House -- or whatever else he wants to do.

"I think he is open to it," Charlie Weaver said. "He probably will explore it."

Weaver, who was Pawlenty's first chief of staff, said the sky is the limit for Pawlenty.

"I think he has got lots of options," Weaver said. "He is a very smart guy with a terrific background who can really do anything he wants."

Another friend said Pawlenty's strongest trait is his personality.

"He's just a class guy, politics aside," said Joel Carlson, a Republican who represented Moorhead in the Legislature and now is a lobbyist.

Carlson said Pawlenty's personality shines when he takes part in hockey games, skates and other events Carlson organizes for charity. The governor has taken part in about 20 such events.

"This guy is out there daily," Carlson said about Pawlenty interacting with the public. "He is the most gracious politician."