Pawlenty's numbers in Minnesota have been trending a bit downward of late, though a third term was still a definite possibility against a largely uninspiring slate of potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates. Unfortunately, Tim was trying to balance his newfound popularity in the national Republican party with his reputation as a moderate back in Minnesota.
A realistic moderate seeking a third term would probably just fucking sign the papers that allowed Al Franken to be seated as a Senator, which most Minnesotans support. The friendly future of the Republican party would fight tooth and nail to let Norm Coleman take it all the way to the US Supreme Court.
So! What is Tim's end game here? Who the hell knows. He can't be a Senator for years still—he had time to get part of a third term in before losing to Amy Klobuchar in 2012—and the House is a step down from being a Governor. Maybe he just wanted to salvage his career before the Minnesota economy finished completely, utterly tanking? Maybe he'll get an hour-long Sunday show on Fox? (Horn O' Pawlenty!) Either way, now he's free to be a pain in the ass to would-be-senator Stuart Smalley.