[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/16/art.tpawlenty.gi.jpg caption="Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is the keynote speaker Friday night at a major conservative conference."]
(CNN) - Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is the keynote speaker Friday night at a major conservative conference. If that sounds familiar, there's a good reason.
Pawlenty's announcement earlier this year that he would not run next year for a third term as governor was a tip off that he was considering a run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
Since then, Pawlenty has been 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, and has campaigned for the GOP gubernatorial candidates in New Jersey and Virginia, the two states that hold gubernatorial elections this November.
The visibility continues Friday night, when Pawlenty gives the keynote address at Western Conservative Political Action Conference (WCPAC).
"Governor Pawlenty will talk about his successful record of governing as a conservative in a traditionally liberal-leaning state, including balancing the budget every year without raising taxes," say Alex Conant, an adviser to Pawlenty. "He is very concerned that President Obama and Washington Democrats are running up debt that our nation can not afford. He'll discuss how the Democrats' big-government proposals will take health care in the wrong direction, and detail how he's improved health care in Minnesota by containing costs."
Pawlenty has been increasingly visible. He was one of the main speakers at a Republican National Committee conference in San Diego in July, the keynote speaker at a Republican Party of Florida dinner in August, and a speaker last at the Value Voters Summit in Washington and at the biennial Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island, Michigan.
At the Michigan conference, Pawlenty defended his nationwide appearances and said he plans to continue
"The point is, I have the time and the energy and the ability to make some time to speak out to issues that I think are important to my state and to the country," said Pawlenty.
Next month Pawlenty will be the keynote speaker at an Iowa Republican Party fundraiser. That event should raise more speculation about a possible 2012 White House run since the Iowa caucuses kick off the presidential primary calendar.
Also coming up for Pawlenty, his first fundraisers for his new political action committee. Next week Pawlenty comes to the nation's capital for a fundraiser for "Freedom First" PAC, which will be followed by what Conant terms a PAC kick-off in Minneapolis in early November. The PAC allows Pawlenty to raise money to help elect fellow conservatives and Republicans in 2009 and 2010. Pawlenty also joins such other possible 2012 contenders as Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin, who all have established PACs.
"Pawlenty will be a serious candidate for the Republican presidential nomination if he chooses to run in 2012," said CNN Political Editor Mark Preston. "He has an impressive resume and is well liked by the conservative base. He was smart to spend part of the summer criss-crossing the country helping his fellow Republicans raise money. Those are chits he might be able to cash in later."
The Minnesota governor also signed up a number of Washington political veterans, some of whom advised Romney during his 2008 presidential bid.
Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn