"Eyeing a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has moved to the right to better appeal to the conservatives who will likely select the GOP candidate.
Pawlenty has been viewed during his two terms as fairly close to the center. But in recent weeks he has made several moves to burnish his right-wing credentials.
Among them: He yanked state funding for the ACORN community organizing group, termed fears over so-called death panels "legitimate," called President Barack Obama's address to schoolchildren "uninvited," suggested he could assert states' rights to block federal healthcare reform, and called Obama's reform plans "a joke."
"Pawlenty is making public statements and taking stands likely to gain him some notice by the conservatives who will determine which candidate will rise from the GOP pack as their nominee," the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune reported.
The governor — who has announced that he will not run for a third term in 2010 — has said he dismissed the "premise that somehow all this is for 2012."
But former state Republican Party Chairman Bill Morris declared: "The vocabulary is getting more hard-right. He really is taking fairly hot-button positions on key conservative issues."
A recent Rasmussen Reports poll found that a vast majority of Minnesota voters believe Pawlenty will run for the White House in 2012, and many think he can win the GOP nomination.
In the survey, 29 percent of respondents said it is very likely he will run, and 43 percent said it is somewhat likely.
And if he does run, 50 percent of respondents believe his chances of winning the nomination are very likely or somewhat likely.
The poll also found that 50 percent of respondents strongly or somewhat approve of his job performance, and 43 percent somewhat or strongly disapprove."
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51 minutes ago