Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty kicked off the presidential campaign season for Republicans today by announcing the formation of a presidential exploratory committee in a Facebook message to supporters.
"We know what we need to do: grow jobs, limit government spending and tackle entitlements," he says in a video message that emphasizes his mid-America, blue-collar roots. "Join the team and, together, we'll restore America.
"The brave men and women throughout this country's history that have asked for nothing more than the freedom to work hard and get ahead without government getting in the way. For the last eight years, that's just what I did here in Minnesota," he says in the high-quality video, which is set to uplifting orchestra music and features glossy images of Americana interspersed with historical video and shuttered manufacturing plants.
Pawlenty will build his campaign around these blue-collar origins, the compelling personal story of the grandson of immigrants who put himself through college and became the conservative Republican governor of a relatively blue state.
The race among Republicans to challenge President Obama has gotten a late start and Pawlenty is the first major Republican to officially announce his intentions, although the formation of an exploratory committee is still one step removed from a full-blown campaign.
"This exploratory committee will be the next step in the process, not the full announcement but assuming the exploratory committee goes well that will come soon enough," Pawlenty, 50, said on a conference call with friends and family this morning, adding that the move would put a "structure" and "organization in place to take these initial steps to run for president of the United States."
The Republican former governor has been traveling the country in recent months, focusing on early nominating states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and fine-tuning his message in front of potential GOP presidential primary voters.
While not an official declaration of his candidacy, the exploratory committee will allow Pawlenty to begin testing the waters for a Republican presidential bid. He will file papers with the Federal Election Commission today to put the committee in place, according to a Pawlenty aide.
Pawlenty will become the first major candidate to launch an exploratory committee. Two others -- Georgia businessman Herman Cain and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer -- have also taken that step and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced last month he was entering an "explore phase" of a potential presidential campaign.
Gingrich congratulated Pawlenty on taking the plunge in a message on Twitter.
"Congrats You were a great MN Gov, you'd be a great Pres candidate," Gingrich tweeted on Monday, adding that he and his wife "look forward to seeing you and Mary soon," Gingrich said.