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GOP stops governor poll

ST. PAUL - Minnesota Republicans stopped a straw poll for governor half-way through the annual Farmfest event.

"A straw poll was started but stopped because the state chair had not authorized it," state Republican spokesman Mark Drake said. "We didn't want to take attention away from our sanctioned state convention poll in October."

Governor candidate state Rep. Marty Seifert of Marshall, who grew up near the Farmfest grounds, said he was told the poll was halted "apparently because it favored me. ... They felt there was too much bias in favor of me."

The straw poll was being conducted in the GOP's Farmfest booth. The event was Tuesday through Thursday.

Republicans plan a rare non-election year convention on Oct. 3, with one of the main draws being a governor's race straw poll. About a dozen Republicans are running or expected to run and the poll is expected to thin the field.

Pawlenty travels

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty continues his countrywide tour with stops in Ohio and Florida.

The potential 2012 presidential candidate is to speak in Orlando Aug. 22 at the Florida Republican Party's Statesman's Dinner.

"I cannot think of a Republican statesman more appropriate to join Florida Republicans for this exciting celebration of our great party," state GOP Chairman Jim Greer said.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Pawlenty "is going to make his pitch to the swing state of Ohio next month."

The newspaper says he will headline the Buckeye state's first GOP statewide dinner in a decade on Sept. 19.

"He's one of the smartest, most pragmatic conservative leaders in our party today, and he believes as I do that our party needs to modernize its message without moderating its principles," state party Chairman Kevin DeWine told the Plain Dealer.

Pawlenty has been in Washington and San Diego in recent days, as well as making stops in California, Colorado, Arkansas and elsewhere, not to mention a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The governor's office says that sponsors of the events at which he speaks as governor pay for most of his expenses. On political trips, the office says, the state pays no more than if he were at home in Minnesota.

While he says he has not decided on his future, most observers say his traveling show he is planning a run for the presidency.

Franken in charge

The newest U.S. senator presided over final debate Thursday as the Senate confirmed Sonia Sotomayor as the next Supreme Court justice.

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, in office just over a month, presided due to the luck of the draw. It is tradition for rookie senators to preside over routine business, although high-ranking ones often sit in the elevated seat during important votes.

Those presiding always have Senate staff members close at hand who walk them through whatever they need to do and say. Franken produced a smile at one point, when calling for the vote, as he stumbled over the exact wording.

Franken read the 68-31 vote total, ensuring that video and audio recordings of the historic event over the years will include Minnesota's senator.

During last month's Judiciary Committee hearings on the Sotomayor nomination, Franken lightened the mood at one point, asking the judge about a "Perry Mason" television show case. Both are fans of the long-ago canceled show.

Peterson opts out

Doug Peterson will not run for Minnesota governor.

Peterson, a former state representative from southwest Minnesota and current Minnesota Farmers Union president, had been looking into entering the crowded Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party contest, but announced that will not happen.

"I do believe that my background and experience as a legislator, teacher, farmer, auctioneer, artist and rural leader gives me a unique perspective of this state," Peterson said in a statement. "However, I have decided personally at this time that it does not work for me to run for statewide office."

He said that he will seek a fifth term as farmers union president.

"It is my hope that the many candidates running for governor take the necessary time to listen to rural Minnesota," Peterson said.

Pawlenty's story

Washington Post reporters Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson finally reveal how a year ago Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin won the Republican vice presidential nod over Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

The reporters wrote that, as a headline declared, "John McCain was looking for a way to shake up his campaign."

They said the GOP presidential nominee thought Palin was worth the gamble, even though she was a high-risk choice.

"Pawlenty was young and vigorous, a conservative who had grown up in a blue-collar family -- his father was a truck driver -- and he was anti-abortion," Balz and Johnson wrote. "He had won re-election in the Democratic year of 2006 and was seen as a future leader of the GOP, an advocate of modernizing the party without abandoning its conservative principles. Though not particularly flashy, he was seen as a more than credible choice, a running mate who might keep the Upper Midwest competitive. He was the safe choice if Palin faltered."

The reporters outline the entire vice presidential pick drama in the Post story, as well as in their book, "The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election."

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.