Presidential candidate and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said yesterday to conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt he sees CIA director designate Gen. David Petraeus on “the short list for a lot of things.”

“Now Gov. Pawlenty, you just mentioned Gen. Petraeus is about to come back to the stateside to take over the CIA,” Hewitt said. “If you are the Republican nominee as you’re seeking to be, would Gen. Petraeus be on your short list of potential vice-presidential nominees?”

Although Pawlenty didn’t say Petraeus was on his short list, Pawlenty did say he was well qualified for the job.

“Well, he’d be on the short list for a lot of things,” Pawlenty said. “He is a remarkable leader, exemplary leader. He’s somebody I think the country owes a debt of gratitude to. He’s knowledgeable, strong. He’s served his country so well. He could serve in any number of positions, and I think he’ll be on many people’s list for vice president, and could certainly serve in that position well. We’re going to have a wealth of riches in that regard, Hugh. You look at the governors and the senators around the country, and the business leaders around the country, we’re going to have lots of people to consider in that category.”

An evident leader in the Afghanistan theater, Petraeus would beef up the foreign policy credibility of any Republican ticket — and this cycle’s crop of candidates, Jon Huntsman excepted, have few foreign policy credentials.

But even independent of Petraeus or any other internationally expert vice presidential candidate, T-Paw next Tuesday will seek to impress on the foreign policy front.

Tim Pawlenty will discuss the Middle East Tuesday in the first big foreign policy address of his campaign, according to an aide.

“Governor Pawlenty will deliver a major foreign policy address next Tuesday morning at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. The speech will focus on the challenges and opportunities presented by the Arab Spring,” an aide emailed.

“Governor Pawlenty will address President Obama’s failed leadership, approach, and philosophy of how to approach the entire Middle East region,” the aide said. “He will touch on the need for the Republican Party to continue its support for a strong foreign policy.”

Since President Barack Obama announced a sharp drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, Pawlenty has projected a new strength in his remarks on the United States’ role in the world — a strength he lacked on virtually any topic in the second presidential debate (in terms of the image he presented, not in terms of the actual substance of his remarks). Pawlenty will, of course, need to continue to sound like a strong leader, as, unless he performs well, the Iowa primary could make his VP shortlist entirely irrelevant.