ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty erased one doubt about his political future while blowing open another, passing yesterday on a third-term bid while declining to say if he'll set his sights on the White House.

Pawlenty dismissed talk of a 2012 Republican presidential campaign as premature, saying that he would focus on the next 19 months to finish his term strong. But he said that he wouldn't hesitate to travel on behalf of a party he thinks needs refreshing. He'll be in Washington Friday to address College Republicans.A conservative with blue-collar roots, Pawlenty, 48, has been considered a likely White House candidate for months. He gave his political profile a boost in 2008, when he endorsed John McCain early and was seen as a finalist to be McCain's running mate until McCain upended the campaign by choosing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. *