Tim Pawlenty lines up bid for US presidency
Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has taken the first formal step towards running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.
Mr Pawlenty is the first high-profile Republican to show serious intent to run. He made the announcement in a video posted to his Facebook page.
He is not as well-known nationally as many of his rivals and trails in polls.
Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Haley Barbour are among those also expected to announce bids in the coming months.
In launching his bid earlier than other likely contenders, Mr Pawlenty is likely to generate media attention that raises his national profile and name recognition.
His announcement on Monday was that he will form an "exploratory committee" to assess the feasibility of a presidential run.
This is a routine first step for candidates, with the exploratory committee almost certainly later being converted to a presidential committee.
Exploratory committees allow candidates to more easily raise money and hire staff for their campaigns.
Mr Pawlenty is the first serious candidate to announce a probable US presidential campaign via Facebook.
In the slickly-edited video announcement, he said: "We, the people of the United States, will take back our government."
In his two terms as governor of Minnesota, which ended in January, Mr Pawlenty claims to have cut the state's budget deficit without raising taxes.
He was a staunch critic of President Barack Obama's healthcare reform bill, and is seen as socially conservative, including opposing abortion and stem cell research.
A devout Christian, he is said to be an amiable person who is well-liked by conservatives.
Democratic President Barack Obama is expected to stand as the incumbent in the November 2012 election.