Looks like Minnesota will have a wild run to the finish in both of its gubernatorial nomination contests. That may be the real takeaway from the twice and future (?) governor, Tim Pawlenty, who tells WCCO that he’s not going to let a little something like a nominating convention stand in his way. Having jumped in the race too late to have a realistic chance of gaining enough delegates, Pawlenty’s focused on the primary instead:

Still, it’s not clear if Pawlenty can win over the required 60 percent of delegates to earn his party’s endorsement. He, like other candidates, has the option of going straight to voters in the August 14 primary.

“The 1,300 delegates, or so, that you need to get endorsed may already be pledged to other candidates,” Pawlenty said on WCCO Sunday Morning. “If that is the case, the cake may already be baked, but either way our campaign is not stopping with the endorsing convention. You get on the ballot in Minnesota by running and winning a primary, and that is what we intend to do.” …

The Minnesota DFL is also going into their June convention without a clear outcome. The front-runner is Congressman Tim Walz — who won the caucuses and is leading in fundraising — but state auditor Rebecca Otto and State Representative Erin Murphy are working hard to win over delegates.

While Otto and Murphy say they will abide by the endorsement and drop out if they don’t win, Walz is taking the same route as Pawlenty — saying he’ll take the fight all the way to the August primary.

Minnesota has a dual system for determining the nominees of the two major parties. The nominating convention offers the party endorsement, which is only determinative if every other candidate who doesn’t get it decides not to run in the primary. Leadership in both parties like to issue condemnations for those who do not abide by the endorsement process, but it still usually comes down to a primary.

Pawlenty has lots of reasons to rely on that system rather than the caucuses. In fact, he has about 640,000 of them, the number of dollars he’s raised more than likely endorsement winner Jeff Johnson in just a little over a month. He’s quickly risen to second place among all gubernatorial candidates from all parties with just a skosh over $1 million, trailing Democratic front-runner Rep. Tim Walz by about the same amount he leads Johnson.

Walz has other worries than just fundraising. It’s taken him more than a year to to get to $1.6 million, which means that Pawlenty may soon surpass him. Meanwhile, his nearest two Democratic opponents (Erin Murphy and Rebecca Otto) have raised almost a million dollars between them. Furthermore, the fight in the DFL has burned through much of that fundraising; Walz has spent just over a million dollars from his coffers, while Murphy and Otto have run through most of their funds (Murphy appears to be $30,000 or so in the hole). Otto, whose campaign will challenge Walz from his left, also pledges to run in the primary, which will force Walz to either move in a more progressive direction or lose ground in the Twin Cities.

Meanwhile, how much of Pawlenty’s funds have gotten spent? Er … $40,000 as of last Tuesday, a mere 4% of his revenue, which means that Pawlenty already has an advantage of nearly $400,000 over Walz. Compare that burn rate to Johnson (~50%), Walz (62%), Otto (74%), and Murphy (105%), and it’s not looking bad for Pawlenty in either the primary or general election. And when one considers that all of the GOP’s announced candidates (both still in and withdrawn) have only spent $520,000, it looks even better for future Republican fundraising. That’s less that Erin Murphy has spent on her own; across all DFL candidates, the party has burned through $3.29 million even before the nominating conventions. That’s one hell of a burn rate.