, CORAL GABLES, Florida, Sep 20 – The co-chairman of White House challenger Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, Tim Pawlenty, stepped down on Thursday to become a lobbyist for the banking industry.
The campaign issued a joint statement by the two men – former rivals for the Republican candidacy until Pawlenty dropped out late last year – in which Romney expressed regret that Pawlenty will not stay with the campaign.
“Tim Pawlenty is a dear friend,” Romney said in the statement. “He’s brought energy, intelligence and tireless dedication to every enterprise in which he’s ever been engaged, and that certainly includes my presidential campaign.”
Pawlenty, a former governor of Minnesota whose blue-collar roots were seen as a counterweight to multimillionaire Romney’s privileged background, has been one of Romney’s most active supporters on the campaign trail.
The 51-year-old had been considered a frontrunner for the vice presidential pick, but Romney chose Wisconsin congressman and budget hawk Paul Ryan instead.
“My work with Mitt has been a privilege. Mitt Romney is a truly good man and great leader,” Pawlenty said in the statement.
“As the campaign moves into the home stretch, he has my full support and continued faith in his vision and his policies.”
“My work with Mitt has been a privilege. Mitt Romney is a truly good man and great leader” – Pawlenty.
And yet Pawlenty’s departure is a blow, rattling a campaign that polls show is still trailing President Barack Obama barely six weeks away from election day on November 6.
It also comes during a brutal week for Romney, who faced criticism from Democrats and some Republicans when secret video surfaced showing him demeaning 47 percent of American voters as lazily dependent on government handouts.
The Financial Services Roundtable, a bipartisan lobbying group that does not allow its employees to undertake political activity, picked Pawlenty to replace long-time chief executive Steve Bartlett, who is retiring.
According to a statement, Roundtable member companies account for $92.7 trillion in managed assets and 2.3 million jobs.