Tim Pawlenty is governor of Minnesota no longer.
Having chosen in June not to seek re-election, Pawlenty has left the governor's mansion to his successor, Mark Dayton, who took office today as Minnesota's first Democratic governor in 20 years.
Which will leave ample time for Pawlenty to focus on what, we all assume, is his next step: running for president in 2012. And it will be a shock if Pawlenty doesn't run.
He's been raising money faster than a telemarketer for almost a year and a half. In October 2009, Pawlenty launched his Freedom First PAC (political action committee), the type of organization that allows politicians to raise and spend political cash without officially running for office. It's almost a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for a presidential run to percolate.
Mitt Romney led the field of big-name presidential contenders in 2010 money ($5.2 million raised, $5.3 million spent), with Palin trailing in second ($3.2 million raised, $2.9 million spent), and Mike Huckabee lagging in a distant third ($944,00 raised, $941,000 spent). But Pawlenty's respectable haul of ducats ($2 million raised, $2.5 million spent) puts him in league with the Big Three.
The now-ex-governor has set up state-level PACs in Iowa and New Hampshire, a presidential power move that will let him raise, donate, and otherwise curry favor with state-level pols in those important primary states.