Pawlenty plans Monday announcement of 2012 bidby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio,
Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio,
Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty will make his campaign for president official next week in Iowa.
An aide says Pawlenty plans to formally announce his 2012 campaign in Des Moines Monday. Pawlenty and his wife Mary will be there for what's being billed as a town hall meeting at 11:30 a.m.
Pawlenty formed a presidential campaign exploratory committee in March. He has essentially been running for president since June of 2009, when he announced he would not seek a third term as governor.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., will also be in Iowa next week and there is speculation Bachmann may use a speech in Des Moines on Thursday to announce she's running for president or at least forming an exploratory committee.
Pawlenty initially struggled to gain name recognition outside the upper Midwest, but his appearance at high-profile events in recent months has attracted national attention.
The 50-year-old Republican, who was raised in South St. Paul, has spent so far spent his entire political career in Minnesota. He was widely considered a front runner for the slot of vice presidential candidate in 2008, but Sen. John McCain opted for Alaskan governor Sarah Palin instead.
STARTED IN DURENBERGER'S OFFICE
Pawlenty's political career began with an internship in Sen. David Durenberger's office, R-Minn., in 1980. He returned two years later to work for Durenberger's re-election campaign. He earned a B.A. in political science in 1983 from the University of Minnesota.
As political director of Durenberger's 1988 re-election campaign, Pawlenty helped the senator defeated DFL challenger Skip Humphrey 56 percent to 41 percent.
The campaign staffer was elected to the Eagan City Council in 1989, and would later be elected to the Minnesota House for six terms.
Pawlenty become House Majority Leader in 1999, and considered a run for the U.S. Senate two years later. He backed off after he received a call from Vice President Dick Cheney asking him to step aside in the race to allow St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman to run uncontested for the GOP nomination.
Pawlenty announced his run for governor in 2001, campaigning with a promise not to raise taxes. He won the election with 44 percent of the vote. His DFL opponent Roger Moe received 36 percent, and Tim Penny of the Independence Party trailed with 16 percent.
He was re-elected in 2006 in a tight race against DFL candidate Mike Hatch, with Pawlenty receiving 46.7 percent of the vote and Hatch receiving 45.7 percent.
CONSTANT STRUGGLES WITH BUDGET
Pawlenty inherited a $4.5 billion budget deficit he first took office, which he referred to as "the Incredible Hulk of budget deficits." He would wrestle with budget problems throughout his time in office, partly due to a sputtering economy, but also due to the failure to enact permanent spending cuts or tax increases that would have balanced the budget over the long-term. That failure meant a budget roller coaster that went mostly downhill over the part eight years.
Pawlenty and the Legislature saw a budget surplus in 2006, when the governor said, "We've completed the biggest financial turnaround in Minnesota history."
But just two years later, the state faced a growing deficit.
Pawlenty's main governing principle was not to raise state taxes. With the exception of a fee on cigarettes of 75 cent per pack that he pushed in 2005, the governor did not call for higher taxes during his eight years in office.
Pawlenty has deflected blame for the state's current fiscal problem, which include a projected $5 billion budget deficit. He has argued that the DFL-controlled Legislature failed to adopt his proposed spending cuts over the past four years. He has also said that Minnesota is in the same position as every other state in the nation, and that he has successfully changed the course of Minnesota government. He calls himself the first true fiscally conservative governor in the modern history of Minnesota.
RAMP-UP TO PRESIDENTIAL RUN
The governor announced in June 2009 that he would not seek another term, sparking speculation that he was considering a presidential run. The publication of his memoir, "Courage to Stand: An American Story," heightened expectations for a presidential bid.
Throughout the book are references to God and quotes from scripture. There are stories of political showdowns and triumphs.
"It's the story of my life," Pawlenty said.
In a January 2011 interview with MPR News, Pawlenty said he hopes his story can be instructive to others.
"You know, I grew up in a meat-packing town under some difficult circumstances with my mom passing away when I was relatively young," he said, "and of course, have been able to serve in the Minnesota Legislature in a leadership position and as governor faced a lot of challenges, learned some things along the way."
In his book Pawlenty recalls a time when, as Minnesota House Majority Leader he made Gov. Jesse Ventura so angry that he thought Ventura was going to punch him.
He writes about the horrific Interstate 35W bridge collapse and an "unnamed" Democrat he claims threatened to use the tragedy to politically carve him up.
There are stories about trade missions, visits to war zones, and encounters with Minnesota soldiers. A recurring theme is Pawlenty's frustration with the growth of government and with the Obama administration.
Pawlenty has accused Obama of turning back on campaign promises of reform and more responsible spending. Pawlenty wrote in his memoir that Obama is driving the country off a cliff.
EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the budget deficit when Pawlenty took office as being $4.5 million. The current version is correct.
Mark Zdechlik covers politics for MPR News.
Tom Scheck covers politics and government for MPR News.