Eeeeeeeenteresting.  I have to admit that I didn’t see this coming:

 Tim Pawlenty is endorsing Mitt Romney for president.

That’s the word from Romney’s campaign. …

In an email to supporters sent by the Romney campaign early Monday, Pawlenty says that Romney alone — quote — possesses the unique qualifications to confront and master our severe economic predicament.

So who’s up for a Romney-Pawlenty ticket in November 2012?

In the 2007-8 cycle, Pawlenty was one of the earliest endorsers of John McCain.  I recall interviewing the Governor in February 2007 about his early-adopter position, announced before McCain had even become an official candidate.  At the time, there was speculation that Pawlenty had positioned himself for the #2 spot on the ticket, and he apparently stayed on the short list until McCain picked Sarah Palin.

This time around, Pawlenty has a more realistic shot at an offer — but he might have appealed to more than just Romney, too.  If Perry wins the nomination, he’ll need some regional diversity and a Washington outsider to run with him, just as Romney does.  So why not just keep the powder dry, if you’re Pawlenty?  In fact, why not wait at least until more towards the end of the debate cycle to make a decision, when it will become a little more clear where the race is heading?

Making this even more intriguing, Pawlenty’s turning point in this race came when he refused to restate his attack on R0mney’s health-care reform plan (“ObamneyCare”) in a national debate.  How will Pawlenty reconcile his earlier position with his endorsement now?  The answer should be interesting — and entertaining.

Update: Pawlenty’s endorsement just went live at NRO:

Fortunately, America may get a second chance: Mitt Romney is running for president, and I am proud to endorse him.

Alone among the contenders, he possesses the unique qualifications to confront and master our severe economic predicament. His abiding faith in our country’s exceptional historical position as a beacon of freedom will make him the most important leader in a world that depends upon a strong America to stay at peace.

Having served as governor of Massachusetts, he turned that state’s budget around from deficit to surplus while simultaneously cutting taxes, but that is not the full measure of what he will bring to the presidency. His time in government was a moment of service — a way to give back to our country — following a distinguished career in the private sector, where he launched companies and turned around troubled ones.

And there’s this:

He’s formulated an economic plan — a set of alternatives to the government-oriented programs that Barack Obama has put in place — that is unparalleled in the history of American electoral campaigns. By pressing for fundamental change in the way that Washington taxes and spends, issues regulations, uses energy, interacts with our major trading partners, and deals with our labor force, he fully envisions a way to place America back on the path toward rapid economic growth and full employment. …

But he’s not only a family man, he is a man of principle. He believes in the bedrock conservative ideals of limited government and free enterprise.

Guess what doesn’t get a single mention in this endorsement?  Health care.

Update II: Here’s Pawlenty on Fox & Friends this morning, via TPM. They ask him about the ObamneyCare issue, and also ask about his potential as a running mate — which Pawlenty says he won’t consider:

Ezra Klein noted on Twitter that this may be an anti-endorsement of Rick Perry, and he may be right — but that’s more a function of the way this race has become a binary contest than perhaps a specific intent on Pawlenty’s behalf.