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Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty says he doesn't think the extramarital affair admitted this week by South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, a fellow Republican, should be viewed in political terms.

Pawlenty told reporters Friday night that Sanford's affair is an example of family issues that aren't limited to one political party.

"Those kinds of sad challenges are not limited to somebody being a Republican or a Democrat or an independent or a Green Party person," Pawlenty said. "They sadly happen to all kinds of people, so I don't see what happened to him in partisan terms, and nor should anyone else."

Pawlenty also said it should be up to South Carolina residents to decide whether Sanford resigns.

"I think the situation is going to have to settle for a while and that's going to be a decision for the people of South Carolina and for Gov. Sanford to make," Pawlenty said. "I don't think that somebody from the outside should be looking at that, plus I'm not sure all the information and facts about all what happened is even known yet."

Pawlenty spoke Friday to more than 400 people gathered at the Arkansas Republican Party's annual governor's dinner in Little Rock, an event headlined by Sanford last year. Pawlenty announced last month he would not seek re-election next year, clearing the way for a possible 2012 presidential bid.

Pawlenty insisted his visit to Arkansas had nothing to do with potential future plans and offered praise for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who's also believed to be considering another run for the White House.

Huckabee, who did not attend Friday's dinner, welcomed Pawlenty to the state in a video shown at the event.

"I'd certainly welcome him to Minnesota," Pawlenty said.

During his speech to Republicans, Pawlenty said his party needs to rebuild from losses in the 2006 and 2008 elections by focusing on fiscal conservatism.

"We've got to be about growth in this party and that should not be confused with acting like Democrats," Pawlenty said. "It's about convincing people who are not yet Republicans to become Republicans."


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