Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has not ruled out running for president. Now he's planning a visit to Iowa, whose caucus voters play an outsized role in winnowing presidential candidates.
The Iowa GOP said Wednesday that Pawlenty will headline the party's annual fall event, "Leadership for Iowa," in Des Moines on Nov. 7. The speech will put him in front of Republican activists and donors in the state with the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses.
Pawlenty is widely believed to be considering a presidential bid in 2012. Since announcing in June that he would step down as Minnesota governor, he has started a political action committee, put together a team of experienced political advisers and traveled around the country speaking to Republican audiences in states including Michigan, Ohio and South Dakota.
Spokesman Alex Conant said Pawlenty is focused on helping a Republican win the Iowa governor's race next year and hasn't made plans beyond the end of his term in 15 months.
The Iowa announcement led Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party to make light of the two-term governor's frequent trips with a news release titled, "Pawlenty to Visit Minnesota."
Jeff Boeyink, executive director of the Republican Party of Iowa, said "Leadership for Iowa" is one of two major annual events for the Iowa GOP. He said it will focus on the party winning the Iowa governor's office after nearly a dozen years on the outside - not the 2012 race for president.
With a crowd of Republicans running for governor, Boeyink said, Pawlenty offers a model.
"There's a governor, a strong fiscal conservative, and yet an advocate for health care and education reform, somebody who's willing to lead," he said. "That's exactly the kind of profile we're looking for in a new Republican governor here in Iowa."
The headliner for the party's spring event was Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who leads the Republican Governors Association.
Pawlenty traveled to Iowa several times last year to campaign for Republican John McCain.