Pawlenty Announces Candidacy For President

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty formally announces his presidential campaign Monday, and, with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels out of the race, the GOP field for president is settling into place. Or is it?

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Tim Pawlenty, the former Republican governor of Minnesota, kicked off his presidential campaign today. He spoke in Des Moines, Iowa. Pawlenty jumped in just one day after news that one of the most-watched potential candidates, Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, will not join the race. NPR's Don Gonyea has the story of the latest official candidate.

DON GONYEA: Most candidates kick off a presidential campaign in their hometown or home state, but Tim Pawlenty decided to head right to the place where the first votes of 2012 will be cast: Iowa.

He argued that President Obama has failed to tell Americans the truth about the tough choices that need to be made.

Mr. TIM PAWLENTY (Former Republican Governor, Minnesota): The truth is Washington, D.C., is broken. Our country has gone broke, and the pain of the recent recession will pale in comparison to what's coming if we don't get spending in Washington, D.C., under control. President Obama doesn't have an economic plan. He just has a campaign plan.

GONYEA: Truth was the theme of Pawlenty's speech. The word came up again and again. He said he'll end what he called the era of bailouts and handouts. He wants to repeal the president's health care law. He called for raising the Social Security retirement age for young people and, in a statement that will raise eyebrows across Iowa, said federal subsidies for ethanol production should end.

Mr. PAWLENTY: 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.

GONYEA: Pawlenty spoke as Iowa Republicans, and political junkies everywhere for that matter, were still buzzing about what Governor Mitch Daniels' absence from the race may mean.

Daniels said his decision not to run was because his wife and daughters didn't want him to. Today in Des Moines, Pawlenty's wife Mary, who is a lawyer and a former judge, pointedly made it clear she has no such reservations.

Ms. MARY PAWLENTY: All that I know and all that I have witnessed about my husband has me supporting him in equal measure with my heart and my head.

GONYEA: Meanwhile, Democrats in Iowa and from Pawlenty's home state of Minnesota didn't waste any time going on the attack. In Des Moines today, they held a news conference to highlight his record as governor, including the state's $6 billion deficit. Ken Martin is a top Minnesota's Democrat.

Mr. KEN MARTIN (Chair, Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party): Tim Pawlenty used every gimmick in his toolbox to make sure that he could say that he never raised taxes on Minnesotans. Yet the fact is that under his leadership, property taxes went up to the tune of $2.7 billion, almost 53 percent, because he shifted that responsibility onto local governments.

GONYEA: At this stage of the game, Pawlenty's big challenge is name recognition and improving on a showing that so far consistently puts him in single digits in the polls.

Don Gonyea, NPR News.

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