The Republican Party "lost its way" by flouting its core conservative principles and by failing to address the concerns of middle-class "Sam's Club" voters, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty told The Washington Times Monday.
"We need to be reform-minded and take the lead by showing, for example, how conservative ideas can grow jobs, reform and improve education, make health care more affordable, and provide a more secure and clean energy future," Mr. Pawlenty said in answer to a series of questions posed on the Times' Web site.
The 47-year-old second-term governor was on Sen. John McCain's shortlist for vice president, and is considered one of the party's rising stars. But he turned aside questions of his own national ambitions with regard to the 2012 White House race.
"I am focused on my responsibilities as governor of Minnesota, and there is much work to do," he said. "I am also considering whether to run for re-election in 2010. I am not even thinking beyond that now."
The governor said he was willing to give President-elect Barack Obama "breathing room," and noted that many of Mr. Obama's early personnel choices had a "Clintonesque flavor."
"So far, he seems to be picking experienced leaders who, unfortunately, are not conservatives," he said.
But he said there were a number of worrisome items in the campaign platforms of Mr. Obama and his fellow Democrats, including possible deep cuts in defense, expanded federal spending on social programs, eased rules on union organizing, and a bigger government role in health care.
Mr. Pawlenty said the attention focused on his fellow Republican governor, Sarah Palin of Alaska, was understandable following her selection as Mr. McCain's running mate.
"She generated a great deal of attention and interest during the campaign, and I suspect that interest will continue," he said. "She will be one of the key voices for the party going forward."