Pawlenty Appears Primed for a White House Run

BY Terence Burlij  January 13, 2011 at 5:00 PM EST

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s whirlwind media tour swept through Washington, D.C., Thursday, the city he hopes to make his home a little more than two years from now.

“I’m seriously considering it,” Pawlenty said of a potential 2012 bid, before adding that he hasn’t made a final decision.

But, to hear Pawlenty speak, in this instance at a National Press Club luncheon, it’s not hard to imagine an announcement will be coming soon. Nearly every chance he gets, on almost every issue, he looks to contrast his positions with those of President Obama.

Take the economy, for example. “Just because we followed Greece into democracy doesn’t mean we need to follow it into bankruptcy,” Pawlenty says, a jab at what he views as government spending run amok.

The Republican also has sharp words for the president’s handling of his health care policy. Pawlenty accused the president of breaking his promise to enact legislation that would reduce health care costs. “That is not what he delivered,” Pawlenty contends, arguing what the president did sign into law “is not going to work.”

In what has become a bit of a tradition on the path to presidential candidacies in recent years, Pawlenty’s press push is tied to the release of his new memoir, “Courage to Stand: An American Story.”

In recent days Pawlenty has appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” sat down with the ladies of “The View,” made the cable rounds, and capped it all off Wednesday night by mixing it up with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central’s “Daily Show.”

On his book tour Pawlenty will also traverse vital election ground, including nominating powerhouses Iowa and New Hampshire, and the battleground of Florida. He’s filled out his itinerary with two stops in Texas and a handful of signings in his home state.

With more than a year until the Iowa caucuses, why all the fuss? Well, Pawlenty is on a mission. He has to improve his name recognition with voters around the country. A Gallup poll released earlier this week found that just 39 percent of Republican voters are familiar with Pawlenty, which puts him on the bottom-half of potential 2012 GOP contenders. Sarah Palin tops the list with 95 percent, while Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich all register above 80 percent.

And, it didn’t take long Thursday before Palin’s name came up. Pawlenty said Palin had been “falsely accused” by some in the media of inciting Saturday’s shooting because of a campaign graphic she released last year that marked 20 vulnerable Democratic districts, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’, with what looked like the cross-hairs of a gun sight. “People came flat out and blamed her for that incident and the facts, as we know them today, don’t bear that out,” Pawlenty added.

Comparing the misinformation that came to light following 2007′s I-35 bridge collapse in Minnesota to the Tucson aftermath, Pawlenty remarked, “We also know that in those incidents where reality and fact give way to condemnation, or judgment not based on fact, it becomes very corrosive, not just to the debate, but to democracy more broadly.”

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