Minnesota Maverick

Office of the Governor of Minnesota
Office of the Governor of Minnesota
Political Players is a weekly conversation with the leaders, consultants, and activists who are shaping American politics. This week, CBS News' Brian Goldsmith talked with Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, a leading McCain supporter, about whether his candidate can come back from the political dead -- and whether his party's nominee can carry traditionally Democratic Minnesota. You endorsed Senator McCain for president last January when he was the presumed Republican frontrunner. Some of his allies since then have jumped what they think is a sinking ship. Are you as confident now as you were then that he'll be the nominee?

Tim Pawlenty: I'm confident that Senator McCain is the best person to be the next President of the United States. He has the most relevant experience. He is also one of the most courageous leaders that our country has seen in many years. He is steadfast. He is strong. He's experienced. And I strongly support him. You're one of his national chairmen. What steps have you taken to support his campaign?

Tim Pawlenty: My role as national co-chair for the senator has been honorary or ceremonial. I haven't been involved in the day to day activities of the campaign or the management of the campaign in any meaningful sense. My role has simply been to do some surrogate speaking for him at some events he's been unable to attend. I also hosted a fundraiser for him here in Minnesota. As I'm sure you saw, there's a new Minneapolis Star Tribune poll out this week that shows McCain a strong second in Minnesota, but still behind Giuliani. How do you think he defeats Rudy Giuliani nationally?

Tim Pawlenty: I don't know how this is all going to shake out in terms of the Republican selection process. I think we have many good candidates. I just happen to believe that Senator McCain is well suited to be president. And I have a personal affinity and friendship with him that transcends the race.

And I never speak ill or negatively of any other Republican candidates in this race. I know most of them. I'm friends with them. I have a high regard and respect for them, as well. Obviously, infrastructure is an increasingly important issue in this country, particularly in your state with the tragic collapse of that bridge in Minneapolis. It will apparently cost about double the original $250 million budget to rebuild. Where do you think the government gets the money to afford these projects?

Tim Pawlenty: First of all, infrastructure broadly is one of the important issues facing our country. And we're, you know, 15 to 20 years behind. And both Republicans and Democrats need to recognize that and try to work together to find some common ground to get some increased investments so we can modernize and update the infrastructure in our country. And that includes roads and bridges and dams and water facilities and many other things.

One of the basic functions of government is infrastructure. And it should be a priority. So I would hope they would also be able to reallocate money into infrastructure as compared to some of the other places that they put money. There are also some emerging innovations that we should consider, like using electronic sensors to charge for the use of busy lanes on a congested price basis.