Making a move to regain momentum and boost his standing in the leadoff nominating state, Tim Pawlenty is launching the first television ad campaign by a presidential candidate in Iowa, his campaign announced Wednesday (see below).
The 30-second advertisement is meant to sell the idea that Pawlenty has the conservative record to back up his rhetoric on the campaign trail, pointing to his two terms as governor of Minnesota.
"In a liberal state, I reduced spending in real terms for the first time, took on the government unions and won, appointed a conservative Supreme Court, and passed healthcare reform the right way – no mandates, no takeovers," Pawlenty says. "If I can do it in Minnesota, we can do it in Washington."
The healthcare point, in particular, is another shot at front-runner Mitt Romney. But it's one again fired on the air, like his criticism of "Obamneycare" made during a Sunday show appearance. In this month's GOP debate, he declined to make the same critique in person to the former Massachusetts governor.
The ad buy is a modest one -- about $50,000 in markets across Iowa. They will start airing on Thursday and run through July 3.
For Pawlenty, a strong showing in Iowa is going to be crucial in establishing himself among the top tier of Republicans. He is hoping for a boost from the August straw poll in Ames.
"This is part of our continuing process to get better known in Iowa and make our case to Iowa Republicans," Pawlenty told Politico on Tuesday.
Romney has not made clear yet how strongly he'll compete to win the caucuses next year -- he is bypassing the straw poll, but participating in a televised debate there that same week.
Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor and ambassador to China who launched his campaign Tuesday, said he won't compete in Iowa at all.
But Pawlenty will face competition from a fellow Minnesotan in Michele Bachmann, who will formally announce her candidacy in Iowa next week. She had by most accounts a breakout performance in the New Hampshire GOP candidates' debate, while Pawlenty admittedly missed a chance to make his mark.