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Pawlenty left at the altar as McCain picks Alaska governor for VP

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will not be John McCain's running mate, but on Friday highly praised the woman who will be.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is the pick. Pawlenty described her as a terrific selection and a reformer.

"She's going to be a wonderful, terrific, outstanding pick for the Republican Party, but more importantly she is going to be a great leader for our country," Pawlenty said.

Palin is the first woman and youngest governor of Alaska, and had only been mentioned as a dark horse running mate possibility.

"I've stood up to the old politics as usual," Palin told an excited crowd in Dayton, Ohio, after McCain introduced her as his running mate.

Palin is the first Republican woman vice presidential candidate and only the second for a major party. Minnesotan Walter Mondale picked the only other major-party woman running mate, Geraldine Ferrero, when he ran for president in 1984.

"Women of America, come join our cause," Palin said.

She praised Ferrero and Sen. Hillary Clinton for their ground-breaking candidacies. One reason for the Palin pick was to attract Clinton supporters who may not be able to back Sen. Barack Obama, who on Thursday night accepted the Democratic presidential nomination.

McCain said all of the Republicans he considered for vice president are quality people and said he would continue to consult with them during the campaign and if he is elected.

He said Palin has "grit, integrity, good sense."

"She stands up for what is right and she doesn't let anyone tell her to sit down," McCain said. "She is exactly who I need. She is exactly who this country needs to help me fight the same old Washington politics of me first and country second."

Pawlenty said Palin appeals to many of the same voters that he would. He calls them "Sam Club Republicans" because they are middle-class Americans who look for value both in the store and at the ballot box.

Like Palin, most Americans had not heard of Pawlenty. But the Minnesota governor's name became more and more mentioned as a possible running mate in recent days.

"I am just honored to be considered and I am honored to be governor of the great state of Minnesota," he said this morning during his weekly radio show at the Minnesota State Fair.

Pawlenty said he did not support McCain to get a new job.

"I never got into this with the idea that I needed or wanted something out of it," Pawlenty said.

McCain's pick of Palin ends more than two years of speculation that Pawlenty would be the Republican vice presidential candidate.

McCain often has said Pawlenty will be a key to the Republican Party's future. Others agree.

Minnesota GOP Chairman Ron Carey called Pawlenty a "two thumbs up" type of leader for the party. Most Minnesotans are disappointed McCain did not pick Pawlenty, Carey added.

"You would love to see Gov. Pawlenty on the ticket from a Minnesota pride standpoint," he said.

However, Carey looked toward the future.

"He's well positioned for long-term leadership in the Republican Party," Carey said. "He has a very bright future."

Friday morning, Pawlenty would not predict his future. He said he will decide early next year if he will run for a third term as governor, adding that he will not talk about the issue until then.

Pawlenty said he and McCain have not discussed whether he would have a place in the Cabinet.

State Fair visitors crowded around the radio booth at the beginning of the governor's weekly radio show.

As he approached the radio booth, a woman told him: "I'm glad you are staying." He laughed and thanked her for the comment.

About two-thirds of the crowd left after he answered a question about the vice presidential situation.

Ironically, Palin is less experienced than Pawlenty, who has been criticized as being too inexperienced to be vice president.

Speculation escalated that Pawlenty was the pick on Thursday afternoon when he abruptly canceled several interviews in Denver, where he was talking up McCain's campaign as the Democratic National Convention ended. At one point, he told reporters that his background is stronger than that of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Pawlenty is a national co-chairman of the McCain campaign. Their close relationship is one of the reasons Pawlenty had been considered a top vice presidential contender.

Pawlenty remained loyal to McCain even when his presidential campaign was faltering. McCain, who turns 72 today, often praises Pawlenty as the future of the Republican Party.

Pawlenty's loyalty to McCain -- a trait the presidential candidate treasures -- is one reason political observers thought the governor had a good shot at being a vice presidential candidate.

Even in the McCain campaign's lowest days, when it looked like he might be forced out of the race due to lack of money and a stumbling organization, Pawlenty stood behind him.

Political pundits said Pawlenty would have been a safe selection for McCain because he is a conservative, and would have few problems among fellow Republicans. However, polls were mixed on whether he could even help carry Minnesota for McCain.