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On eve of announcement, Tim Pawlenty promises to 'tell the truth'

Barack ObamaPoliticsTim PawlentyElectionsJohn McCain

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is officially declaring his presidential candidacy on Monday. But he offered a sneak peak to supporters in a YouTube video posted Sunday, in which he pledges to speak candidly about the nation’s challenges.

“I could promise that we can eliminate a $14-trillion debt, create jobs for 10 million people, restructure Social Security and healthcare all without making any tough decisions. Or, I could try something different: I could just tell you the truth,” a stern Pawlenty says.

Pawlenty makes no mention of any potential Republican rivals, focusing instead on President Obama, whom he hopes to face in the general election. He said the nation needs a president "who understands that our problems are deep, and who has the courage to face them," which he said Obama does not.

In 2008 Pawlenty was among John McCain's most active surrogates, both in the primaries and the general election. His announcement video offers a his own brand of the "straight talk" that the Arizona senator made a personal trademark.

"You won't hear empty promises. You'll hear solutions," he said. "Together, we’ll change our country. And this time, it’ll be for the better."

The Minnesota Republican has been building toward a presidential run ever since McCain lost to Obama in November 2008. He was among the first Republicans to form an exploratory committee in March.

The timing of Pawlenty’s public announcement, planned during a town hall meeting in Des Moines Monday, comes as yet another favored Republican figure chose to pass on the 2012 race. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels told supporters Sunday that family concerns would keep him out, a move some think could boost Pawlenty.

“There are a lot of undecided people out there, and some of those people are going to like the story of a Midwestern governor who's governed in a blue state, and governed as a conservative successfully," said longtime Republican fundraiser Fred Malek, who is not involved in the race.

Pawlenty is still largely unknown, registering in the low-single digits in most state and national polls. But his announcement video included some of his “blue-collar” biography.

“I moved a Democratic state in a conservative direction,” he said. “I know the American dream, because I lived it.”

An email from Pawlenty’s campaign includes a solicitation for donations. Though he raised nearly $1 million at a fundraiser last week, it pales in comparison to an event by front-runner Mitt Romney, who raised ten times that amount.

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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