[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/29/art.pawlenty.fair.jpg caption="Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty walks through the State Fairgrounds in Falcon Heights, Minn., Friday."]
CNN political desk, senior assignment editor
For Governor Tim Pawlenty, Friday had to be a surreal morning. At the same time he could have been headed to an Ohio rally be named John McCain’s running mate, he instead was at the Minnesota State Fair talking about pigs and carnies.
Pawlenty hosted his weekly radio show from a white porch on the fairgrounds in St. Paul, just as the nation was learning of McCain’s choice. The radio booth for WCCO sits under the skyride, behind the Icee booth in the middle of the midway.
Wearing a blue and white striped golf shirt, a smiling Pawlenty was greeted by cheers as he walked through the crowd. The man who was among the finalists to be McCain’s vice presidential nominee took the mic as Elvis’ Burning Love played. “Hunk-a –hunk-a burning love”, he said as the show began.
The show would feature a swine judge for the fair judging he said, telling the audience to laughter, “you should know about the quality of pigs.” His second guest in the fair-themed show would describe the life of a carnie.
Pawlenty says he likes the weekly show to be free of politics, but politics could not be ignored this morning. The first question from the audience was how he slept the night before, and what is next for Minnesota since he wouldn’t be leaving.
The Governor told Mark from St. Paul “I slept great last night”. He said they had a busy day, highlighted by his daughter winning a volleyball game he was able to attend.
“It was a good night for our family”, he said.
Sitting just 50 feet from the booth for the state Republican Party, covered in McCain signs, Pawlenty said, “I’m delighted to be an advocate for the McCain campaign. I’m just honored to be Governor of Minnesota, and I couldn’t ask for a better state.”
The crowd of 300 to 400 people thinned out after the running mate question. But seven television cameras and a herd of reporters remained.
As Pawlenty’s show took a break, the radio station aired a special report announcing Governor Sarah Palin had been chosen by McCain instead. She was en route to the Dayton arena, as Pawlenty prepared to go back on the air. There was no discernable reaction as the report played on the loudspeakers.
After the show, he came out to the group of reporters waiting for his reaction. He called Palin a “wonderful, terrific outstanding pick.”
“She’s an executive, she’s a reformer, dynamic”, he said. Calling her a “hockey mom”, he said Palin has a “compelling personal story”.
Pawlenty revealed he got the news from McCain himself early Friday morning, and “congratulated him” on the choice. He called the conversation “personal”, declining to share details but said it was an “upbeat, positive call”.
Showing no signs of disappointment, Pawlenty said he didn’t get into the McCain campaign “with the idea I wanted or needed anything out of it”> He said he remains a top supporter and will actively work for the ticket. He wouldn’t say if he had interest in the cabinet post.
More fairgoers and television cameras swarmed Pawlenty as he departed. It was a fun morning at the fair, but perhaps not the morning he hoped for a day earlier, as the vice presidential speculation centered on him.
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