Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty put this video on his Facebook page at about 2 p.m. Monday.
In the video, Pawlenty announces the formation of a presidential exploratory committee. The committee will allow Pawlenty to begin raising money for a presidential campaign.
The announcement wasn’t much of a surprise and people have been reacting to it all day.
University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato said he thinks Pawlenty’s decision to launch an exploratory committee was a good one because it helps him get out in front of the pack of likely 2012 presidential candidates .
“For the time being, Pawlenty, who started as the longest of long-shots in the top-tier, is now, I think, reasonably ranked next to Mitt Romney,” said Sabato. “Romney is the proto-favorite. But he’s not a heavy favorite. Pawlenty has made a lot of progress, and I think people see him as making a real bid for the nomination.”
Sabato said Pawlenty hasn’t necessarily distinguished himself from other likely GOP presidential hopefuls on policy. But Sabato said with little or no name recognition Pawlenty has climbed to the top-tier of possible Republican presidential candidates. And now that Pawlenty has launched a campaign Sabato said reporters will look to him to respond to Obama administration decisions about everything from the economy to national security.
“My guess is Pawlenty will be a go-to guy for the national media if only because he’s been willing to jump into the cool-pool first,” Sabato said.
Washington University political science professor Steven Smith, said in addition to political reasons, there are practical reasons to form an exploratory committee.
Pawlenty has used his Freedom First political action committee to finance much of his national travel thus far. But his political action committee, like any PAC, can only donate $5,000 to his likely future presidential campaign.
Every penny Pawlenty’s new exploratory committee could eventually end up helping him raise money for an actual campaign.
“Once you formally create an exploratory committee you’re signaling your donors that you’re going to start raising money in a big way with the hope of using that money toward a formal campaign,” Smith said. “Once you file as a candidate all your contributions, even though they were made in the past are subject to the federal limits. So doing this now is really a matter of legal convenience.”
Pawlenty reportedly urged supporters to hold off writing checks to his new campaign committee until April 1. That’s the beginning of the second quarter Federal Election Commission reporting period. When those second quarter numbers are made public in July, Larry Sabato from the University of Virginia said the amount he has collected could be critical to Pawlenty’s presidential prospects.
“I don’t know what he’ll post, but I can guarantee you everyone will look at that number,” Sabato said. “We’re looking at a campaign where the incumbent president is going to spend $1 billion. Now how does a Republican creditably challenge a president like that if in the early going say only a few hundred thousands or a couple of millions can be raised? I think you have to look long-term and ask, can a candidate compete with a president who’s going to spend $1 billion?”
State DFL Party Chair Ken Martin just issued a statement saying Pawlenty ignored his job as governor over the past two years to pursue his national ambitions. He said there’s nothing in Pawlenty’s record to show he deserves a promotion.
“Unfortunately for the people of Minnesota, while Gov. Pawlenty was out exploring states near and far, he failed those he was supposed to represent,” Martin said. “Tim Pawlenty left our state facing the largest deficit in Minnesota’s 152-year history, drove up property taxes and fees on middle-class families and small businesses alike, all while making draconian cuts to education that forced some schools into 4-day weeks.”