With McCain set to announce his selection Friday in Dayton, Ohio, Pawlenty said he was not making the trip to Ohio.
"I'm not going to be there. I plan to be at the state fair. You can draw your conclusion from that," Pawlenty said on his weekly call-in radio show on WCCO-AM in Minneapolis. He also called it "a fair assumption" that he will not be McCain's running mate.
All that raised the possibility that others, such as former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge or Democrat-turned-independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, could be named, or that McCain could choose a wild card candidate from any number of prospects that have been mentioned since he clinched the GOP nomination in March.
Among those names: first-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
The Arizona senator has decided on his choice for vice president early Thursday but the campaign has given no hint on his selection that will be announced on his 72nd birthday.
Jill Hazelbaker, McCain's communications director, gave nothing away during an interview on CBS' "The Early Show."
"John McCain is going to make the choice from his heart. He's going to choose someone who can be a partner in governing. He's going to choose someone who brings character and principle to the table and who shares his priorities. And I'm confident that he's going to make a great pick," Hazelbaker said.
Republicans kick off their national nominating convention next week in St. Paul, Minn., and McCain's campaign hopes the announcement of his running mate will stunt any momentum that Democratic rival Barack Obama might get from the just concluded Democratic National Convention.
McCain was mum on the subject Thursday as he and his wife, Cindy, boarded a plane in Phoenix bound for Dayton.
Pawlenty fed the speculation Thursday when he abruptly canceled scheduled interviews with The Associated Press and other media and left Denver where he had been part of a GOP response team to counter what was being said at the just concluded Democratic nominating convention.
Romney met with donors in California on Thursday and was in Los Angeles and Orange County by evening.
Associated Press writers Glen Johnson in Boston and Doug Glass in Minneapolis contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)