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Pawlenty, passed over for VP, still soldiers on for Romney

Carrie Dann / NBC

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Saturday addresses Young Republicans at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.

MANCHESTER, NH -- Three video cameras and about 50 people were on hand Saturday morning to see Tim Pawlenty perform a familiar but painful role as the GOP's most dutiful good soldier. 

Pawlenty, who until Friday was widely believed to be a finalist for Mitt Romney's vice presidential selection, appeared as scheduled at a small breakfast speech just hours after Romney instead unveiled Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., as his running mate before an audience of thousands in Norfolk, Va. 

Calling Ryan "a great bold leader," Pawlenty urged the group of Young Republicans at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics to help the swing state turn red in November under the Romney-Ryan banner.


"They're going to be a great team for America as president and vice president," he said of the newly announced ticket. 

The former Minnesota governor, who was attending four public events in the state Saturday, told reporters that he received a call on Monday night from Gov. Romney informing him that he would not be the nominee's choice for VP. 

"We had a great discussion about it" at that time, Pawlenty said. "So I've known for about a week." 

Asked if he would continue to be an active surrogate for Romney, he referenced his work in the private sector but said he'll continue to advocate on the ticket's behalf "as I can." 

"It depends on the week," he said. "I kind of have other things I have to do too, but I am absolutely committed to doing all that I can to help Gov. Romney and Congressman Ryan win this election." 

In his remarks, the famously self-deprecating former governor did not reference his VP audition, but he poked fun at his short-lived GOP primary campaign, which brought him to the Granite State about a dozen times in 2010 and 2011. 

He even compared his run to the brief nuptials of Kim Kardashian and Minnesota native Kris Humphries. 

"I go around Minnesota and say don't feel sorry for Kris Humphries," he said. "His marriage lasted longer than my entire presidential campaign!"

After speaking, Pawlenty stood patiently on stage as organizers conducted a lengthy presentation of local awards. He looked on as a young GOP awardee gushed about Ryan as "the first great leader of our generation."  

The governor and his wife shook hands with supporters and local politicians before and after the event, as some lamented to him that he had been passed over for the job. 

One regretful backer's consolation: "It's like being the other woman, at least it's something." 

"Well," Pawlenty replied, laughing loudly. "I hadn't thought about that."

Related:

Romney picks Ryan as running mate

Pawlenty: 'I'm not disappointed'