Morgan: There was a poll out only today, a CNN poll which probably made quite the disturbing reading for you. Did you ever imagine in your wildest nightmares that you’d see a poll of potential Republican candidates which had you at 2 percent and Donald Trump at 19 percent?
Pawlenty: Well for me, I’m just getting known Piers. So our trajectory is kind of a tortoise and hare strategy and as we get better known particularly in the early states I think you’ll see those numbers change for me. But as to Donald Trump, the Donald I think he’s funny, I think he’s exciting. He’s obviously very successful. I think he brings a lot to the debate so I welcome him to it. If hair is going to be a factor in this race, Piers then I’m going to grow my mullet back out. I had a mullet when I played hockey in high school.
Morgan: In a hypothetical scenario governor, if someone like Donald Trump was to emerge as the Republican nominee and asked you to be vice president, would you accept that honor?
Pawlenty: I’m running for president. I’m not putting my hat in the ring rhetorically or ultimately for vice president so I’m focused on running for president.
(Emphasis in the transcript is mine)
Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant had to walk back the remarks, telling CNN, “As the governor has said many times, he is not running to be anybody’s vice president. He will have a formal announcement about running for president later this spring.”
Conant has also taken to Twitter to push back against CNN:
As was the case with Mitt Romney’s announcement earlier this week, the fact that Tim Pawlenty is getting ready to run for president is not news to anybody who has been keeping an eye on him since 2008, and more so during the lead up to the 2010 elections as his gubernatorial term was winding down. However, the fact that he actually said the words “I’m running for president,” would automatically trigger alarm bells for any political journalist watching the interview. It may not have been a formal photo op event with a backdrop and a podium, but it is fair for CNN and other news organizations to quote him saying “I’m running for president.” It may not have been the intended message Pawlenty and Conant wanted out there, but it’s impossible to unring that bell, especially when it’s on video.
Regardless of semantics, the fact that Pawlenty was the first Republican candidate to announce the formation of a presidential exploratory committee was a pretty big indicator that he was running for president. All other subsequent announcements, no matter how official they may be declared, are really just formalities.