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Pawlenty debates on national TV

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty debated the Russia-Georgia crisis on national television Sunday in an appearance that pitted him against another vice presidential hopeful.

Pawlenty, reportedly high on Sen. John McCain's running mate list, said Americans would prefer that his candidate face foreign leaders. But Indiana U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh rattled off a list of foreign-policy items that he said showed his candidate, Barack Obama, would be the best to deal with other countries.

The two appeared on CBS Television's "Face the Nation," seated side-by-side, with host Bob Schieffer sitting to the side.

Schieffer introduced the segment saying the show tries to put potential vice presidential candidates on the air. Neither Pawlenty nor Bayh would comment on their prospects.

Obama and McCain have avoided saying anything in public about who they are considering as running mates.

With the crisis in Georgia dominating the news, that took most of the pair's time.

"One of the questions this crisis raises is who do you want to sit across the table from (Russia Prime Minister) Vladimir Putin," Pawlenty said.

The Republican Minnesota governor answered that he thinks Americans want McCain in that situation.

Last year, McCain warned that there was a problem brewing in Georgia, and the international community may have to kick Russia out of an exclusive economic organization, Pawlenty said.

But the Democratic Indianan criticized McCain's "we are all Georgians now" comment, calling it "bellicose."

Bayh immediately turned the conversation to other foreign-affairs topics, telling Schieffer that Obama originally opposed the Iraqi war and now Iraqi leaders are talking about an American troop withdrawal, much like he has. "Even George Bush is coming around."

It was obvious Pawlenty and Bayh had studied each other's background. At one point, Bayh said: "Tim, you opposed the surge."

But Pawlenty replied that he did not oppose a surge of troops in Iraq; rather, he said, he was skeptical, thinking the surge may have come too late.

Obama, Bayh said, "is strong, he is cool, he is smart."

Pawlenty replied: "Sen. McCain's experience in these matters is legendary."

The governor contrasted the two presidential candidates' Saturday night appearances with an evangelical minister. He called McCain confident and crisp, while Obama was "somewhat halting, wandering."

Bayh, on the other hand, said Obama - whom he called "a devote Christian" -- was decisive. "I thought he spoke very movingly."

"Face the Nation" was the first time Pawlenty has debated a potential opponent face to face. However, he has discussed foreign affairs for the McCain campaign in other venues. He is a national co-chairman of McCain's campaign.