MARCH 14, 2011 12:13PM

Does Tim Pawlenty want to be Mitt Romney’s VP?

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While Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump launch their vanity campaigns for president, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty has a better idea: suck up to the eventual winner.

Tim Pawlenty wants to be Mitt Romney’s running mate when Romney sweeps the GOP primary.

He can’t risk taking a jab at Romney now only to be shunned later. He’s following John Nash’s game theory – it’s better to guarantee second place than go for first and lose it all.

And first place really is out of reach. In a New Hampshire straw poll, Pawlenty garnered only 8% of the vote compared to Romney’s 35%. And 59% of Americans “don’t know” what to think of him. He’s the political equivalent of Cee Lo. Tim’s own online strategist, Mindy Finn, admits that “Romney is the front-runner.”

So he’s just going to be Romney’s wingman. And he started by taking a bullet for Romney’s controversial health care plan.

Let me back up. Obviously Pawlenty has to pretend to run for president, so he’ll seem ambitious and capable and like a clear choice when Romney goes looking for a sidekick. (The GOP isn’t going to make the same mistake they did last time by plucking a total idiot from complete obscurity. Sorry, Sean Parnell.)

He’s been touring New Hampshire recently, doing the GOP song-and-dance of talking down to doctors and healthcare professionals about how readily he plans to repeal Obamacare when he’s elected (vice) president. He plans to do it really, really quickly.

Unfortunately, he didn’t get a very warm reception.

Hospital staffers at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center where Pawlenty spoke disagreed with his assessment of Medicare. Pawlenty knocked it around a bit in an attempt to frame the Affordable Care Act as some giant government bureaucracy, forgetting that most physicians’ main concern isn’t government philosophy but rather saving lives.

GOP candidates like to steer away from the “saving lives” aspect of health reform. A Harvard study concluded that one out of one thousand Americans die every year due to a lack of health insurance. It follows that the insurance mandate of the health care law, which will give insurance to another 33 million Americans, will save 33,000 lives a year.

It’s hard to campaign against protecting lives. Even for a Republican.

So Pawlenty knocks the “government bureaucracy” aspect of it.

And that’s where Mitt Romney comes in. Because when a potential candidate decides to have an opinion on the Affordable Care Act, some reporter will have the gall to ask what he or she thinks of the law on the books in Massachusetts. Which means either criticizing or defending Mitt Romney.

Here’s what Pawlenty came up with:

“I know every time you see me you ask me some variations of these questions, trying to get me to contrast with Massachusetts. But I’ll just tell you what I did and I believe in and leave the analysis regarding Massachusetts to someone else.”

And then:  

“What happens is, if I comment about it, then you go back and write that Pawlenty bashes Massachusetts, and there is tension between Pawlenty and Mitt, and I’m just not going to do that.’

Bros before hos, y’all! Pawlenty isn’t going to throw his good pal Mitt under the bus just because he signed a healthcare bill into law that’s almost identical to the one every GOP candidate hates!

He just came to New Hampshire to condescend to a group of doctors and healthcare professionals by trying to convince them that President Obama wants to take over hospitals.

But here’s the problem in New Hampshire: a survey of doctors in the state concluded that a whopping 81% would actually prefer a single-payer system – a plan that’s more progressive than the current national law.

Alright, obviously he’s walking into walls left and right and hasn’t convinced anyone of anything, much less who he is and what he’s doing here. (I get the feeling that if he was a door to door salesman, he’d start the pitch by telling you that he hates your house.)

None of that matters. He doesn’t want to be the next President. He wants to be the next Sarah Palin.

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Romney/Pawlenty in '12?? Two white, northern Republican businessmen in one package? It's going to be an unpleasant election!