- Associated Press - Thursday, September 20, 2012

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has resigned as a national co-chairman of Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and ruled out any 2014 political races in Minnesota, in order to lobby for Wall Street.

The Financial Services Roundtable announced Thursday that Mr. Pawlenty will become its new president and chief executive officer on Nov. 1. Pawlenty adviser Brian McClung told the Associated Press that Mr. Pawlenty ruled out the Minnesota governor and senator races as he prepared to take the job heading the Wall Street lobbying group.

“With this new position, Governor Pawlenty is taking off the table running for U.S. Senate or governor in 2014,” Mr. McClung said in an email.

Mr. Pawlenty was an early entrant in the Republican presidential campaign, but he ended his bid last year after a poor showing in the Iowa straw poll. He was also a finalist to be Mr. Romney’s vice presidential running mate.

The Financial Services Roundtable said in a news release that Mr. Pawlenty was stepping down from the campaign because the group is a bipartisan organization.

“He’s got kids going to college. I expect this is a high-paying job,” said Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota.

But Mr. Jacobs said it’s not unusual for politicians to move in and out of lobbying jobs and that the 51-year-old Mr. Pawlenty’s decision shouldn’t necessarily be looked at as a permanent departure from electoral politics.

Mr. Pawlenty was twice elected governor of Minnesota, in 2002 and 2006. His 2006 win was the last time a Republican won statewide in Minnesota.

“I think he would have cleared the field in any race he was interested in,” said former House Republican Leader Marty Seifert, who lost the party’s endorsement to succeed Mr. Pawlenty in 2010.

Now the party is without a big-name prospect to take on U.S. Sen. Al Franken and Gov. Mark Dayton in 2014, when they will be running for second terms.

Both those Democrats won their races by extremely close margins that required statewide recounts. Minnesota Democrats expect both men to run for re-election.

Both races could get crowded. Former Sen. Norm Coleman is said to be interested in running again, either a rematch with Mr. Franken or for governor, a seat he ran for but lost in 1998. State House Speaker Kurt Zellers is seen as interested in challenging Mr. Dayton.

Mr. Seifert said he’s not interested in the U.S. Senate race but hasn’t ruled out another bid for governor.

Mr. Coleman and Mr. Zellers did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Ron Schutz, an attorney at the Minneapolis firm Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, told the AP that he’s seriously considering both the Senate and the governor’s race.

“Of course, we have to get past the 2012 election first,” Mr. Schutz said. But, he said, if President Obama is re-elected, then 2014 could be a good year for Republicans since the party of an incumbent president has historically done poorly in the following election.

State Rep. Keith Downey and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer also are mentioned as prospects, and current members of Congress such as Michele Bachmann and Erik Paulsen also could be contenders.

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