(CNN) – Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty officially announced his candidacy for president Monday in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa, kicking off his "truth" campaign.
"In my campaign, I'm going to take a different approach. I am going to tell you the truth. The truth is Washington D.C.'s broken," Pawlenty said. "It's time for new leadership. It's time for a new approach. And, it's time for America's president – and anyone who wants to be president – to look you in the eye and tell you the truth."
After criticizing the president's handling of the economy and health care, he promised to unite the Republican Party and the country.
"No president deserves to win an election by dividing the American people – picking winners and losers, protecting his own party's spending and cutting only the other guys'; pitting classes, and ethnicities, and generations against each other," Pawlenty said. "The truth is, we're all in this together. So we need to work to get out of this mess together."
He staked out some less popular positions, particularly in the Hawkeye State calling for reduced ethanol subsidies and means testing for Social Security beneficiaries.
"The truth about federal energy subsidies, including federal subsidies for ethanol, is that they have to be phased out. We need to do it gradually. We need to do it fairly. But we need to do it," Pawlenty said. "Conventional wisdom says you can't talk about ethanol in Iowa or Social Security in Florida or financial reform on Wall Street. But someone has to say it."
"I'll also tell the truth to wealthy seniors that we will means test Social Security's annual cost-of-living adjustment," Pawlenty added.
He also told his personal story to the Iowa group, touting his "blue collar" roots that taught him the importance of hard work while pledging to grow jobs, limit government spending and tackle entitlements.
The Iowa announcement came on the heels of a video released late Sunday night that carried a similar message, a message Democrats quickly criticized with their own web video attacking his policy stances and presidential ambition.
The spot released Monday focused on a quote Pawlenty gave to TIME magazine earlier this year, when he said he didn't know when he first thought about himself as president.
"I don't know. I wish I had a better answer for you," the ad reads. "So do we!"
Pawlenty's announcement in Des Moines kicks off a multi-state campaign swing that also includes Florida, New Hampshire, New York and Washington D.C.
However, the formal declaration is not a surprise. Pawlenty was the first of what are considered the major GOP White House contenders to form a presidential exploratory committee, filing with the Federal Election Commission on March 21.
As he begins his bid for the GOP nomination, the two-term governor has some advantages. He appears easy-going to many voters, and apparently has a scandal-free past. He's an evangelical Christian who opposes abortion rights and same sex marriages, positions which may help him among social conservative voters, who are very influential in the Republican primaries, especially in Iowa and South Carolina, which is the first Southern state to vote in the primary and caucus calendar.
But he does have his challenges. First among them is that he's relatively unknown outside his home state. Pawlenty polls in the low single digits in just about every national 2012 GOP horse-race survey. Many Republican handicappers also say Pawlenty is not especially charismatic, possible due to too much of that so-called "Minnesota nice."
Pawlenty's announcement in the summer of 2009 that he would not run the following year for a third term as governor was a tip-off that he was considering a run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Pawlenty soon became very visible, speaking out against the Obama administration and appearing at a number of major Republican and conservative events. He also became vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
In October of 2009, Pawlenty also set up Freedom First PAC, a federal political action committee, to help pay for travel across the country. It also allowed him to assist and contribute to fellow Republicans on the ballot in the 2010 midterm elections.
Thanks to his formation of the PAC and his role at the RGA, Pawlenty criss-crossed the country during last year's campaign in support of fellow Republican lawmakers and candidates running in the midterms, helping to raise his profile and building relationships that could come in handy during a bid for the presidential nomination.
Pawlenty touts himself as a fiscal conservative who stood up to Minnesota's 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 earlier this year.
In January of this year, just days after leaving office in Minnesota, Pawlenty kicked off a national book tour for "Courage to Stand," which chronicled his personal and political life, and his stance on the issues. It was no surprise that the book tour included stops in Iowa and New Hampshire, which votes second in the primary and caucus season.
The following month, Pawlenty appeared to make a pitch for influential tea party activists, as he called for holding the line on government spending and taxes as he headlined an inaugural policy summit being put on in Phoenix by the Tea Party Patriots, one of the nation's largest national tea party groups.
While Pawlenty's early campaign efforts have been largely confined to Iowa and New Hampshire, he's started expanding his operation into South Carolina, which for a generation has had a can't-miss record of picking the Republican presidential nominee. Earlier this week CNN learned that Pawlenty hired Kurt Pickhardt, who until last week was the operations director for the South Carolina Republican Party, to serve as his political director in the state.
Wednesday night Pawlenty was the main attraction at a large fundraiser in Minneapolis. Friday he finished up a two-day financial swing through California. Unlike some of his rivals for the nomination, Pawlenty is raising money for both the primaries and the general election.
"We are raising it because we believe we'll be the nominee and want to be ready for the Democrats," says Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant.
While perfectly legal, raising general election funds helps boost the overall fundraising figures for a candidate. For this election cycle, the Federal Election Commission is allowing individuals to contribute $2,500 to a candidate for the primaries, with another $2,500 to the same candidate for the general election.
- CNN's Paul Steinhauser, Peter Hamby, Kevin Bohn, Steve Brusk and Gabriella Schwarz contributed to this report.
All the lens flare and corny video editing won't save Pawlenty from being boring.
Five billion dollar deficit after his exit from Minnesota governance, now he wants to run for POTUS go to wars to bankrupt this nation even further. Enough Bush and Reagan did to this nation. He backed up Paul Ryan's plan in cutting Medicare, and Social Security. Don't we have brains to think? No wonder, Pres. Obama is making outcry for education in our nation. Tim Pawlenty is another idiot from GOP thugs group. Obama2012. God bless.
I hope that the media will dig into how Pawlenty "cut taxes in Minnesota". According to my family that lives there he cut taxes, dramatically raised user fees and shuffled programs to a more local level where taxes had to be raised. In the end, my family tells them that they ended up paying more instead of less under the Pawlenty tax cut. They couldn't wait to get rid of him as governor and now, following the great Pawlenty there is a Democratic governor, which should tell everyone something given the GOP sweep of the last midterms. If he was such a great governor, why did they elect a Democrat instead of keeping the GOP in the governor's seat?
Pawlenty, I,m so excited for you to run! That would defininitly put our President in office another 4 Yrs!!!!! Thank you so much for making our "President" a Shoe-in for 2012! Newt,Palin,bachmann,Ryan,TRump,Limbaugh, fixed the gop for ya! I don,t know a "sensible American" that will vote for this kind of "Political Trash" Please pick "Palin for your VP?? Thanks
"Time for truth?" Pawlenty would not be able to even identify the truth if was biting his butt. Wilted lettuce has more of a back bone than Lying Little Timmy.
Will he tell the truth that individual mandate, the idea that everyone must buy insurance, was a Republican idea, just like cap-and-trade that he once supported? That these Republican ideas had gone out of fashion with the rise of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party?
This should really fire up the crazy loons of the right wing. Finally they have a candidate who will bend to their every outrageous demand. "Oatmeal, grits and Pawlenty," would make a great campaign slogan. Look out Mittens, you have another flip flopper to out flop.
Timmy should realize that America is going to look him in the eye, investigate his background, and find that the mess he left in MN is by no means a way to get into the White House. He is another GOP weasel, with no spine –just another panderer with a newly found fake southern drawl (LOL @ that!!). The message of fear, and cut cut cut will not work. Until the GOTP gets serious about promoting policies that are favorable to the middle class, women, gltb, minorities, and the youth, they can forget about 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Gov. Pawlenty's message thus far has been to attack Pres. Obama. In other words he is not portraying himself as a solution provider. He seems to want to be the dragon slayer. His total message seems to be this, that, and every other thing is wrong.
No more interstate bridges collapsing while he turns a blind eye to infrastructure (which, people, costs money - raise taxes to save our country NOW).