Can a running mate run a state? And all at the same time?

6:05 AM, Mar 6, 2008   |    comments
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Governor Tim Pawlenty's name remains on the short list of potential running mates for Senator John McCain, who is the presumptive Republican nominee in the presidential race. And that led some viewers to ask us a fairly simple question: if Governor Pawlenty were to join the McCain ticket could he still handle his day job? Or would he be forced to officially turn over his duties temporarily to his second-in-command, Lieutenant Governor Carol Molnau? Even entertaining such a query may seem extremely premature, considering that Governor Pawlenty classifies himself merely as a very active volunteer in the McCain campaign. While he nay be a national co-chairman of that campaign, Pawlenty has always maintained he loves his current job and is focused completely on it. And, as Senator McCain has often joked, "The Vice President's job is serving as tie breaker in the Senate and checking daily on the health of the President." And yet, for the sake of argument, let's imagine a McCain-Pawlenty ticket. Would Minnesota's chief executive be able to balance the dual time consuming roles of Vice Presidential candidate and governor? Can a running mate run a state? "This is a guy who's accustomed to working long, long hours, every day, weekends, evenings," communications director Brian McClung tells KARE 11. Pawlenty's already juggling his Capitol duties with his role of chairman of the National Governor's Association. And yet the work state of Minnesota doesn't grind to a halt. "You don't expect for example Hormel will stop making Spam because their CEO is gone," remarked McClung, "The governor of the state is like the CEO of a major corporation. We have 32,000 employees in the executive branch. We have more than 20 state agencies with commissioners and agency heads that run those." The key to pulling off all this multi-tasking, says former Governor Al Quie, is to surround one's self with good people. "If you have good commissioners, then you can do all kinds of other things instead," said Quie, a Republican who served from 1979 to 1983. Governor Quie told KARE 11 that even Jessie Ventura, who took loads of heat for his various moonlighting gigs as Governor managed to keep the ship of state on course for the most part. "He was a governor who had kind of a rocky time here, but Jessie Ventura, he had excellent commissioners, excellent commissioners." And it stands to reason that Pawlenty wouldn't be tapped by McCain until after the 2008 legislative session ends, allowing the second-term governor to concentrate on solving the budget deficit issue. And should he become the Vice President, the Minnesota Constitution provides that Lt Gov Molnau would assume the top job. She'd be replaced by the Senate president Jim Metzen, of Democrat from South Saint Paul. That would create a scenario allowing a Democrat to become Governor should Molnau leave office before the next election. To run for office while holding another is a fact of life in politics. For instance all three major presidential candidates, McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are all holding down their jobs in the United States Senate and available for important votes. And Governor Pawlenty himself had to "run the state" as it were while running for re-election in 2006. "He was the governor of the state at that time," McClung points out, "And so obviously he had to balance his duties as governor and his outside activities." And it's a familiar situation for Al Quie as well, because he was serving in Congress while running for governor in 1978. "All you had you do is make sure the kind of a person who doesn't have to sleep!" Quie quipped.

By John Croman, KARE 11 News

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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