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Pawlenty reflects on run for presidency at portrait unveiling

ST. PAUL - After his official governor's portrait was unveiled Monday night in the Minnesota Capitol, Tim Pawlenty said that in hindsight he may have pulled out of the presidential race too soon.

"We were out of money. To go forward, you have to have money," Pawlenty said. "Hindsight is always 20/20."

"I put too many chips in that contest in Iowa when hindsight would suggest I should have stretched that out a little longer," Pawlenty told reporters, in his first such public comments since he left the race Aug. 14, the day after a poor showing in a key Iowa straw poll.

Before the poll in Ames, he practically lived in Iowa, home of the country's first presidential caucuses early next year.

"Again, you can't go back and change those decisions," he said, adding, "We didn't have any additional chips to see the next card in the hand."

Pawlenty said his mistake was using too many of his resources too early while he should have spread them out.

Still, he defended his decision. "Based on what we knew at the time, we thought it was the right call," he said.

Pawlenty appears to be focusing away from government and politics, at least for now, after years of public service.

He was on the Eagan Planning Commission and the City Council before serving 10 years in the Minnesota Legislature, ending his tenure as majority leader. Then he began an eight-year service as governor.

While governor, he finished second to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be U.S. Sen. John McCain's presidential running mate in 2008. Before ending his term as governor, Pawlenty was laying groundwork for a presidential run that he launched early this year and ended Aug. 14.

Since leaving the Republican presidential race, Pawlenty said, "I have been trying to get the rest of my life in order that I have put on hold. ... I got that home fertilizer down. Cleaned out the basement."

The 50-year-old former governor is also looking for a private-sector job or jobs.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.