Tim Pawlenty Jumps In: 'I'm Running for President'

And with that another Republican presidential contender told me he was throwing his hat into the ring.

“I’m running for president because I can tackle and fix the budget deficit and the debt and get this economy back on track. That’s what I did in Minnesota and that’s what I can do for America,” Tim Pawlenty told me on “GMA.”

But not everyone agrees that’s what Pawlenty, 50, accomplished as governor. His predecessor, Minnesota Republican governor Arne Carlson, told Time Magazine, “I don't think any governor has left behind a worse financial mess than he [Pawlenty] has.”

Pawlenty shot back.

“My friend governor Arne Carlson is, of course, now an Obama and John Kerry supporter. But nonetheless during my time as governor every time that budget was balanced, it has to be under the Minnesota constitution, and even now since I left office the last budget cycle ends this summer it ends in the black,” he said.

Pawlenty will be in Des Moines, Iowa this afternoon for his formal campaign kick-off. He acknowledged the importance of the state and his competition from a fellow Minnesotan.

“Any serious presidential candidate needs to do well here. I don’t know that you need to win it but you need to do well here and as to Michele Bachmann, she is someone I have respected and certainly know well from Minnesota. Everybody is going to bring something different to the table,” he told me.

Pawlenty sent a video message to supporters yesterday announcing his candidacy. In it he said his campaign won’t sugarcoat the hard truth.

“The truth is our country is in big trouble. We have far too much debt, too much government spending and too few jobs,” he said in the video. Pawlenty’s declaration that he will run follows Mitch Daniels’ decision not to run. Daniels conclusion to stay out of the 2012 fray “caps an excellent week for one person and that’s Tim Pawlenty,” Washington Post columnist George Will said on “This Week with Christiane Amanpour.”

“Mitch Daniels is a friend and I certainly support the policy direction and values that he had for America,” Pawlenty told me. “But I’m not a policy analyst or a pundit, I should say. So we’ll let the pundits say who wins [or] loses from him not being in the race.”

This is Pawlenty’s first run for the Oval Office. Earlier this month on “GMA” the two-term governor outlined three areas of what he called President Obama’s broken promises: the economy, health care and the debt ceiling. But Pawlenty has some ground to make-up – in a recent ABC News/ Washington Post poll Obama lead the former governor by 15 percent in a head-to-head match-up, 53% to 38%. -- George Stephanopoulos

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