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Tim Pawlenty Raises His Profile as 2012 Draws Closer

December 12, 2010 - 6:00pm

With a host of much-better-known Republicans considering running for president in 2012, Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota has been raising his profile in recent days as he reflects on launching his own bid for the White House.

The team at Freedom First PAC, a leadership group affiliated with the Minnesota governor, announced Friday that Pawlenty will be hitting key states in January to promote his new book, Courage to Stand, set for a Jan. 11 release.

Apart from locations in his home state, Pawlenty will visit Washington, D.C., Texas and Ohio, as well as swings through Iowa, home of the first presidential caucus, and New Hampshire, which hosts the nations first presidential primary. Pawlenty plans to head to the Sunshine State on Friday, Jan. 14, speaking to the Hispanic Leadership Network in Miami, as well as hosting a book signing in Tampa.

First elected to his current position in 2002, Pawlenty went on to win a second term in 2006 and received some national attention as a potential running mate to John McCain back in 2008. Deciding to forego a third term in 2010, Pawlenty hit the campaign trail hard, backing Republican candidates across the nation.

In Florida, Pawlenty threw his weight behind Rick Scotts gubernatorial campaign, Marco Rubios bid for the U.S. Senate and congressional candidates Sandy Adams, Mario Diaz-Balart, David Rivera, Dennis Ross, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Steve Southerland, Dan Webster and Allen West.

Looking to raise his profile, Pawlentytook aim at public employee unions in an opinion piece that ran in Mondays Wall Street Journal.

Federal employees receive an average of $123,049 annually in pay and benefits, twice the average of the private sector, noted Pawlenty. And across the country, at every level of government, the pattern is the same: Unionized public employees are making more money, receiving more generous benefits, and enjoying greater job security than the working families forced to pay for it with ever-higher taxes, deficits and debt.

Pawlenty polished up his conservative credentials and sought to show a difference between traditional unions and those of government employees.

The moral case for unions -- protecting working families from exploitation -- does not apply to public employment, insisted Pawlenty. Government employees today are among the most protected, well-paid employees in the country. Ironically, public-sector unions have become the exploiters, and working families once again need someone to stand up for them.

Pawlenty ended with a call to action.

If we're going to stop the government unions' silent coup, conservative reformers around the country must fight this challenge head-on, wrote Pawlenty. The choice between big government and everyday Americans isn't a hard one.

The Minnesota governor has his work cut out for him. National polls find Pawlenty far behind the four leading candidates in the race -- former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin,former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Pawlenty is also trailing in polls in his own region.

Public Policy Polling (PPP), a firm with connections to Democrats, released a poll late last week showing that Pawlenty was placing a distant sixth in Michigan with 3 percent -- far behind Huckabee and Romney, who topped the poll with 22 percent each, Palin who took third with 18 percent, Gingrich in fourth at 15 percent and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas who placed fifth with 10 percent. Pawlenty beat out Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels who took 2 percent and U.S. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota who stood at 1 percent. The poll of 400 Michigan Republican primary voters was taken between Dec. 3-6 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percent.

Even more troubling for Pawlenty supporters was a poll PPP released last week showing that the Minnesota governor was underperforming in his own state. PPP found more voters disapproved of Pawlentys performance as governor than approved of it -- 53 to 43 percent. The poll also found President Barack Obama beating Pawlenty in Minnesota by 8 points, with 51 percent backing the Democratic incumbent while Pawlenty mustered 43 percent. Though Obama had double-digit leads over Palin, Gingrich and Huckabee in Minnesota, Romney was running better against the Democratic president than was Pawlenty. The poll had Obama taking 47 percent while Romney stood at 42 percent. The survey of 949 Minnesota voters taken on Dec. 4-5 had a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percent.

Other candidates considering running include former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, former Gov. George Pataki of New York, U.S. Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, businessman Herman Cain and political activist Fred Karger.

Reach Kevin Derby at or at (850) 727-0859.

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