(CNN) – Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty heads to the presidential proving ground of New Hampshire Wednesday. The potential 2012 GOP presidential candidate is scheduled to be the featured speaker at a fundraiser in Concord for New Hampshire State Senate Republicans.
Pawlenty is expected to speak about the need to rein in Washington spending, a source close to the two-term governor tells CNN. The governor will plug his record of balancing state budgets without raising taxes, and his health care track record in Minnesota. Pawlenty will also continue his recent attacks on the Senate Democratic health care bill.
Pawlenty, who's not well know in New Hampshire, will also use his appearance to introduce them to his personal story of growing up in a blue-collar town, and talk about the importance of reaching out beyond the core GOP base to expand the party.
Pawlenty announced this past summer he would not seek a third term as governor next year, fueling speculation he is setting his sights on a presidential bid instead. Since then, he's become a frequent speaker at major Republican and conservative conferences across the country. He also took on a high profile role as vice chairman of the Republican Governor's Association.
The governor also rolled out a new political action committee in October and announced a group of new advisers, several of whom advised Pawlenty's likely 2012 rival - former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney - during his 2008 presidential bid. Last month Pawlenty traveled to Iowa to headline the state GOP's annual leadership dinner, one of the two major annual events for the state party. Iowa's caucuses kick off the presidential primary season.
New Hampshire's primary is traditionally the second contest on the presidential primary calendar. While the appearance in the Granite State can be seen as an effort to build early support in the key primary state, Pawlenty adviser Alex Conant says that's not the case: "Governor Pawlenty is focused on finishing his term strong and helping elect candidates who share his innovative, conservative agenda. Just as he's done in competitive states across the country this year, he's going to New Hampshire to help local Republicans prepare for next year's important elections."
While in New Hampshire, Pawlenty's also expected to make a stop at the New Hampshire Union Leader, whose editorial page remains very influential among conservatives.
Pawlenty becomes just the second possible 2012 Republican White House hopeful to pay a visit to New Hampshire: Mississippi governor and RGA chairman Haley Barbour attended a state party event during the summer. By comparison, Iowa's already seen visits by Pawlenty, former Arkansas governor and 2008 GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, and some longshots like former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, former New York Gov. George Pataki, and Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana.
The two early-voting states represent two strikingly different political cultures: Iowa's Republican caucuses are usually dominated by social conservatives, while economic matters are usually the top priority with Republicans in New Hampshire. Only registered Republicans can vote in their party's caucus in Iowa, while New Hampshire's GOP primary is open to Republicans and registered independents. Since there will most likely not be a competitive primary on the Democratic side in 2012, independents could play an major role in the GOP contest next cycle.
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