Republican Tim Pawlenty, the former two-term governor of Minnesota, has decided to explore a run for the U.S. presidency.
Affectionately known as T-Paw by his fans, Pawlenty declared his intentions in a video on Facebook.
"There is a brighter future for America We the people of the United States will take back our government," Pawlenty said. "Today, I'm announcing the formation of an exploratory committee to run for president of the United States."
"Join the team," he added, "and together, we'll restore America."
Since his second term as governor expired in January, Pawlenty has remained an active political player and has long been telegraphing signals about a potential run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
Pawlenty has recently visited major election-year states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and Ohio. In January, he released a new book, entitled Courage to Stand, and spent most of the month on a promotional book tour. He has also been a frequent participant in the pre-election news cycle, grabbing headlines by criticizing the White House and discussing his potential competitors.
When it comes to financial backing, Pawlenty's star has been on the rise, and he stands at the upper end of prospective Republican presidential candidates.
Pawlenty's leadership PAC -- Freedom First PAC -- raised about $3.3 million during the 2010 election cycle. This ranks his operation as the No. 5 most prolific leadership PACs in terms of receipts during the 2010 election cycle, as OpenSecrets Blog previously reported.
Much of this financial backing went toward supporting Republican candidates at the national level.
Freedom First PAC doled out $177,000 to 81 federal Republican candidates and office holders, according to research from the Center for Responsive Politics. It also gave $10,000 to both the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Freedom First PAC's fund-raising prowess lands it above the leadership PACS of several other potential 2012 candidates and below others.
The leadership PAC of ex-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), known as America's Foundation, only raised $2.8 million during the 2010 election cycle. And at $1.8 million, the leadership PAC of ex-Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.), called Huck PAC, occupied an even lower rung among potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates.
But the PACs of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romeny and ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin easily trump that of Pawlenty.
During the 2008 presidential election, when Pawlenty's state hosted the Republican National Convention, he served as a bundler for GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), directing at least $500,000 into McCain's war chest.
Pawlenty was also involved with the Pawlenty-Molnau Inaugural Committee -- a 527 organization which raised money for his inauguration events as governor -- during the 2006 and 2008 election cycles.
Pawlenty is the second big GOP name to officially test the 2012 presidential waters.
Former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) announced his intent to form an exploratory committee at the beginning of March. Long-shot candidates, including former Godfather's Pizza executive Herman Cain, gay rights activist Fred Karger and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, are also seeking the GOP nomination.
Check out the OpenSecrets.org database of all of the potential 2012 presidential candidates for more information.