Pawlenty Makes Moves in Iowa, New Hampshire

Tim Pawlenty has made a pair of aggressive moves toward a 2012 White House bid: he's set up state PACs in Iowa and New Hampshire. They are state-level affiliates of Pawlenty's Freedom First PAC, which he formed as his national political organization last fall.

Reid Wilson gets the quote from Pawlenty's political spokesman, Alex Conant:
"Establishing PACs in these states will allow Tim Pawlenty to do more to aid local candidates in this fall's elections," spokesman Alex Conant told Hotline OnCall. "Conservatives have a lot of great opportunities in both states this year."

This puts Pawlenty on par with Mitt Romney, whose Free and Strong America PAC has state-level affiliates New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, and Alabama, Wilson reports.

As Conant says, this will give Pawlenty the opportunity to funnel campaign money to state and local candidates running in elections in IA and NH, the two key presidential primary states. It could help him build a network of political support in those states ahead of a White House run. With some formidable candidates eyeing a 2012 bid--Romney, for instance, already has a robust support network in Iowa, and Palin could presumably activate a coalition of social conservatives, tea partiers, and former McCain backers in early primary states--Pawlenty would need to build that support infrastructure early to be competitive in presidential primaries.

At the national level, his Freedom First PAC has been competitive with the PACs of other heavy hitting GOP White House possibles. After forming in late October, it raised $1.2 million in just two months at the end of 2009. (Romney's Free and Strong America PAC took in $2.9 million during the whole year.) It has backed off that blistering pace to open 2010, raising $567,000 and doling out $26,800 to federal candidates.

Pawlenty has been quite the political traveler over the past year and a half--his critics in Minnesota have taken notice of this, and the Democratic National Committee put out a statement today accusing him of neglecting Minnesota for the likes of Iowa and New Hampshire in forming these new organizations--and his PAC operating expenses in 2010 have totaled over $503,000. That all points to a robust effort to build a competitive national political network in significant states heading into 2010 and 2012.