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Tim Pawlenty Enters Presidential Race

Ryan Faughnder |
May 23, 2011 | 10:58 a.m. PDT

Senior News Editor

After months of speculation, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty officially announced his candidacy for president Sunday and will begin to hit the campaign trail hard in Iowa Monday afternoon. He sent an email to supporters over the weekend and posted a video on his website Sunday night announcing his campaing kick-off.

“Our country’s in big trouble,” he says in the video. “We have far too much debt, too much government spending, and too few jobs. We need a president who understands that our problems are deep and who has the courage to face them. President Obama doesn’t. I do.”

Pawlenty spelled out his platform in an editorial in USA Today. He’s running on the belief that President Barack Obama’s health care laws are unconstitutional, the belief that government spending is out of control and his record as Mississippi’s governor. “I signed a budget that actually reduced state spending in real terms for the first time in the 150-year history of our state,” he writes:

I led the charge to move Minnesota out of the Top 10 highest-tax states. I passed market-based health care reforms and introduced merit pay for our teachers. It wasn't easy.

We had a brief government shutdown and had one of America's longest-ever public employee strikes. I also set a record for vetoes and for using executive power to force spending cuts. We balanced every budget during my time as governor while cutting state taxes.

In his first Iowa campaing speech Monday, he laid out the familiar Republican talking points, but he also addressed unpopular topics such as reducing ethanol subsidies and reevaluating Social Security benefits, CNN reported

But not everyone has such a rosy memory of Pawlenty's tenure as governor. Current Minnesota chief executive Arne Carlson rips Pawlenty for raising taxes $2.5 billion over two terms

Pawlenty enters the race at a potentially opportune moment. He may pick up some support from people who might have supported Mitch Daniels, Politico postulates. Daniels dropped out of the race Saturday.

Pawlenty isn’t one for “fancy speeches,” as he puts it when criticizing Obama’s leadership. Daily Show host Jon Stewart recently described him as “reasonable,” though Stewart and others have consistently lampooned him for a lack of charisma. Business Insider is pegging him as the Republican "default" candidate.

Pawlenty has shrugged off this criticism so far. “I’m not running for entertainer in chief,” Pawlenty told NBC’s Today show

Presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty speaking at CPAC 2011 (via Creative Commons)
Presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty speaking at CPAC 2011 (via Creative Commons)

He will try to win Iowa, though recent polling numbers in the state put him in single digits.

As the New Republic points out, though, he has other problems. Namely, cash flow. Mitt Romney, who spent $107 million in his 2008 bid, has already proven his fundraising chops. Pawlenty has countered that his campaign will be more of a Buick than a Cadillac.

The New Republic's Walter Shapiro breaks down the numbers:

Romney […] raised $10 million in pledges last week at a single Las Vegas event. Adding to the pressure of Pawlenty’s countdown clock is the significant possibility that the opening-gun Iowa caucuses (now slated for February 6) will move up into January or even December to thwart Florida’s bumptious efforts to go first.

This means that Pawlenty has maybe six months to raise $40 million, which works out to be about $1.5 million (or 600 donors giving the maximum of $2,500) per week. Last week, Pawlenty held what probably will be his largest fund-raising event of the second quarter, raising $800,000 from home-state supporters (aka “low-hanging fruit”) in Minneapolis. To hit $40 million by December, Pawlenty has to have two fund-raising events on par with the Minneapolis rollout every single week.

With big players like Daniels, Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump, and Haley Barbour out, the primary race looks as wide open as ever. Pollsters and pundits have speculated that potentially strong candidates such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will wait until 2016.

As a Republican lobbyist told the Wall Street Journal, the Republican field looks a little “unfinished,” if not weak. However, Obama is still vulnerable, especially because of the state of the economy, which is still weak despite consistent recent growth. Perhaps, as WSJ suggests, Pawlenty's entrance into the race gives the Republican field more focus.

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