Washington (CNN) – Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty Monday became the first major Republican candidate to form a presidential exploratory committee - a step that allows him to officially start raising funds for a campaign and to take concrete steps towards mounting a run for the GOP nomination next year.
In a highly produced video posted on his Facebook page that contained images of himself as well as patriotic symbols, Pawlenty said he had seen the effect of job loss personally during his youth and referenced some of the economic hardships his state and others have faced more recently.
"Over the last year I have travelled to nearly every state in the country almost every state, and I know many Americans are feeling that way today. I know that feeling. I've lived it, but there is a brighter future for America," he said in the video.
He pledged to grow jobs, limit government spending and tackle entitlements.
"We've proved we can restore limited government in America. It takes fortitude. It takes unwavering faith and convictions and principles that made this country great," he said.
The formation by Pawlenty has long been expected as he has been traveling to key early-voting states recruiting advisers and reaching to various constituencies, including social and fiscal conservatives and tea party activists, as he lays out his vision for the country.
The two-term governor of Minnesota touts himself as a fiscal conservative and standing up to the state's unions and special interests. In the early years of his tenure the state had budget surpluses. With the effects of the recession still being felt, he left office earlier this year with a $6 billion deficit and higher unemployment than when he became governor.
"Unfortunately for the people of Minnesota, while Governor Pawlenty was out exploring states near and far, he failed those he was supposed to represent. 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," Minnesota Democratic Party Chairman Ken Martin said in a statement.
In the latest CNN/Opinion Research Poll gauging Republicans' choice for the GOP Nominee in 2012, Pawlenty ranks in the bottom tier of candidates garnering 3 percent of support. Polls this early in the contest, however, mostly reflect national name recognition.
"Thanks to low name recognition, Tim Pawlenty is without question the dark horse among the 'Tier 1' Republican presidential candidates. Pawlenty is wise to enter the GOP presidential sweepstakes early, because his fiscally conservative record as Minnesota's governor and his blue-collar message will resonate with Republican primary voters, but only if they get to know him," GOP consultant Ford O'Connell, who worked on the 2008 McCain-Palin campaign, said.
While the former two term governor only announced the exploratory committee on Monday, there is no doubt he will officially be running for the Republican nomination.
"There will be a formal announcement" later, a senior Republican official with knowledge of Pawlenty's plans told CNN Monday.
The exploratory committee will be based in Minnesota, a source close to Pawlenty tells CNN.