Tim Pawlenty says he won’t run for Senate in Minnesota

Republican former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who had been considered a potential high-profile candidate in a key race, says he will not run for the Senate this year in Minnesota.

Speaking on Fox Business Network, Pawlenty said: “I am very interested in public service and service for the common good, there are a lot of different ways to do that, but I’ll tell you today that running for the United States Senate in 2018 won’t be part of those plans.”

The Minnesota Senate seat has emerged as an unexpected pickup opportunity for Republicans in a potentially punishing midterm election year after Democratic Sen. Al Franken’s abrupt resignation following sexual misconduct allegations.

Republicans had been attempting to persuade the former governor to jump into the race — with outreach by a roster of party leaders, donors and Republican activists, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions.

Still, a CNN poll last month found Democrats with a staggering 18-point advantage over Republicans nationwide in a generic ballot.

When Fox Business host Neil Cavuto asked whether there needs to be a bigger Republican name in the race for fundraising purposes, Pawlenty responded, “Well, I certainly appreciate that kind of encouragement and people thinking of me in those terms, but if anyone’s going to run for the United States Senate this November, that’s now only 10 months — or 11 months — 10 months away, and it’s going to be a very competitive race in a tough state for a Republican, so you would have to start very soon. And like I said, I’m interested in continuing to serve but there’s a variety of ways to do that — running for US Senate this year won’t be one of them.”

Franken’s replacement, Democrat Tina Smith, previously served as lieutenant governor.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correctly identify the Fox Business Network.