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Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Thursday speaks to members of the Cannon Falls Area Chamber of Commerce. Earlier in the day, his political action committee was unveiled. Pawlenty has gained national attention over the PAC from political pundits who feel it's the first step in a potential White House bid. Tribune photo by Mike Longaecker

Pawlenty remains mum on 2012 plans

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CANNON FALLS -- Despite rising national attention to his newly formed political action committee, Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Thursday continued to deny the group is his vehicle for a 2012 presidential bid.

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"It's not geared towards me running for president," he said after speaking to Cannon Falls Area Chamber of Commerce members.

The governor's visit fell on the same day as the official launch of his Freedom First PAC.

In a YouTube video appearing on the PAC's Web site, timpawlenty.com, he asks for support while addressing taxes, government accountability and American ideals.

"This is an important time in America," the second-term Republican says in the 1 minute, 52 second video. "The stakes are high. And standing on the sidelines isn't an option."

The PAC allows Pawlenty, who announced in June that he would not seek re-election, to raise money for political candidates and travel expenses.

The announcement -- buoyed by news that Pawlenty also assembled a team of advisers with ties to presidential campaigns -- reignited national attention to his possible presidential run. A headline beneath a photo of Pawlenty on the conservative-leaning Drudgereport.com screamed "CAN THIS MAN CONQUER OBAMA?"

Pawlenty downplayed the significance of the advisers, saying they were culled to help him build support for other politicians.

"They bring a lot of experience, wisdom and talent to the effort," he said.

According to Politico.com, the list of advisers includes Terry Nelson, Sara Taylor and Phil Musser, all described as GOP consultants with presidential experience.

Steve Sviggum, Pawlenty's close friend and Cabinet member, said the governor had "not directly" spoken to him about any presidential aspirations.

But the Department of Labor and Industry commissioner who also attended Thursday's speech said he "absolutely" sees Pawlenty as presidential material.

"Gov. Pawlenty has the capability to be a national presence and to make a real difference -- not just to the state of Minnesota -- but to the nation," Sviggum said. "He's a national player, if he wants it."

The governor steered clear of presidential campaign rumors during his address to chamber members, sticking to his established messages of lower taxes, education reform and reining in rising health care costs.

"We're trying to slow that train down," Pawlenty said of the state's health and human services budget. "It is hard."

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