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Editor's note: With Tim Pawlenty's announcement that he was launching a presidential exploratory committee, we here at Townhall Magazine thought our online audience might appreciate a profile we published on Pawlenty some 15 months ago, knowing full well that he was likely to jump into the 2012 race. Below is the full text of "A Battleground Leader for 2012?" by Fred Lucas from the January 2010 issue of Townhall Magazine.

Tim Pawlenty’s endorsement of the Conservative Party candidate in the New York 23rd Congressional District’s special election last November might have been the peak of his national exposure thus far. And while Conservative Doug Hoffman came up short, interjecting himself in the race could only be a boon for the “Sam’s Club” Republican from the Midwest.

Pawlenty, the two-term Minnesota governor, has less name recognition than other likely Republican presidential prospects for 2012, but he has a record to run on of balancing budgets and (with some exceptions) cutting taxes. And he has location going for him, as more national elections are being decided in the Midwest, a region where Republicans have been losing ground for years.

Further, he has shown he can at least hang with the heavyweights.

He came in just one vote behind the far better known Mitt Romney and one vote ahead of 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in the Values Voters Summit straw poll last fall in Washington. The gathering of social conservatives, as expected, delivered a landslide win for Mike Huckabee in the straw poll.

But while solid on most fiscal and social issues, he has been smitten with the green agenda, a potential stumbling block in a Republican primary. Further, it is rare that Republicans nominate a presidential candidate who isn’t already a household name.

He’s trying to tackle that unfamiliarity issue. Pawlenty assembled the Freedom First political action committee (PAC) to raise and dole out money to Republican candidates in 2010, thus building support for 2012. The PAC is made up of some heavy hitters such as Terry Nelson and Sara Taylor, who worked for the Bush campaign and White House, as well as Michael Toner, former Federal Elections Commission chairman, and Phil Musser, former executive director of the Republican Governors Association. The board also includes one-time Romney backer Vin Weber, a former Minnesota congressman whose official line is that he is only working for the PAC and isn’t backing any 2012 contender yet.

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Fred Lucas

Fred Lucas is the White House correspondent for CNSNews.com and a contributing editor for Townhall Magazine. He is the author of The Right Frequency: The Story of the Talk Radio Giants Who Shook Up the Political and Media Establishment.