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Minnesota's Pawlenty moves toward Obama challenge

Minnesota's Pawlenty moves toward Obama challenge

Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, took a serious step toward a run for the Republican nomination to challenge President Barack Obama in 2012, setting himself out front of a dozen or so key party members with presidential ambitions.
Pawlenty, a conservative Republican who ran the Democratic-leaning state of Minnesota for two terms, announced on Facebook Monday that he was forming what is known as an exploratory committee. That allows him to raise money, hire staff and requires him to file formal paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. The commission regulates campaigns for national office.
Pawlenty suffers from a lack of national name recognition, a fact that may have prompted him to form the committee ahead of better-known possible candidates like former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The Republican field has been slow to take shape as possible candidates have held back to avoid the harsh media spotlight and the expense of a full-blown campaign operation.
They know Obama, a prodigious fundraiser in 2008, will easily raise hundreds of million in his likely re-election bid.
Pawlenty's Hollywood-style Facebook video announcement emphasized his Midwestern roots and the challenges facing the country. He declared he was joining those who want to "take back our government," declaring he understood the economic pain facing Americans as the economy slowly climbs out of its worst downturn since the 1930s Great Depression.
He made a play both for the mainstream of the Republican Party and its ultraconservative tea party faction that has gained an outsized voice in U.S. politics since Obama was elected in 2008.
"At a young age, I saw up close the face of challenge, the face of hardship and the face of job loss. Over the last year I've traveled to nearly every state in the country and I know many Americans are feeling that way today. I know that feeling. I lived it," Pawlenty said. "But there is a brighter future for America."
While Pawlenty faces a challenge in becoming a household name _ a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted earlier this month found roughly six in 10 voters had no opinion about him _ he carries far less baggage than many of his would-be Republican opponents.
He could turn out to be the least objectionable to the greatest number of Republican primary election voters, rising quickly to the top of the group of party hopefuls.
He may also win points for getting in early while other Republicans hold back, apparently waiting to determine what message will most appeal to the party's fractured membership. Money also is important this year, as sources of campaign cash have been holding back just like the candidates, waiting for clarity in the crowded race.
Only Romney and New York real estate baron Donald Trump, an extreme long-shot, can count on their own finances. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Gingrich have good money machines among backers that they can turn on once they have announced. Gingrich is near to that point. Barbour is widely expected to join the race.
Pawlenty's natural constituency will most likely overlap with that of Romney, who sought the nomination in 2008 but withdrew as Sen. John McCain gained strength toward his eventual nomination.
Romney, a Mormon, is burdened by evangelical Christians' unease with his religion and with having been Massachusetts governor when the state adopted a health care plan very similar to that which Obama moved through Congress last year. Many Republicans have made reversing the national law a no. 1 priority.
Barbour carries baggage over insensitive comments about America's racial history and the impression that he is a good old boy from the south. Gingrich is three times married, which hurts him with evangelical Republicans, and is known for strident rhetoric, which could turn off moderates.
Palin, McCain's running mate, has vast name recognition and a fiercely loyal but narrow base of support. While she has left the door open for a run, party elders are moving to block her candidacy. Some question her qualifications and doubt she could beat Obama.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who ran to the finish of the primaries in 2008, also is traveling the country promoting a book and acting like a candidate, although not committing. He is an ordained Southern Baptist minister and a favorite with many evangelical Christian voters.
Another Mormon, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who is leaving his job as Obama's ambassador to China, is seen as an attractive candidate, although he has not committed to a run for the highest office. He is burdened both by his Mormonism and his ambassadorial association with Obama's government.
Pawlenty's advisers are banking on a strong showing in Iowa, the southern neighbor of Minnesota and the home of the first of the 50-state nominating tests, to propel him through other critical primary states.
He has made near monthly visits to Iowa since last summer and is due there the first two days of April. He will then be in New Hampshire, which holds the first state primary vote. He will be taking part in a tea party-sponsored tax day rally on April 15, the day Americans' income taxes are due.


Updated : 2021-03-09 03:16 GMT+08:00