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Pawlenty memoir highlights faith, blue-collar upbringing

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Tim Pawlenty
In a 2010 photo provided by Tyndale House Publishers, the cover of a new book by former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is shown. Republican Pawlenty is trying to carve out a national identify as he tilts toward a presidential campaign.
AP Photo/Tyndale House Publishers

In his new memoir,  "Courage to Stand: an American Story," former Gov. Tim Pawlenty chronicles his blue-collar South St. Paul upbringing.  

He writes about his early interest in cold war-era politics.  The book also covers  his 1989 run for Eagan City Council and his campaigns for the Legislature and governor.

Read excerpts from Pawlenty's book.

Throughout  the book are references to God and quotes from scripture.   There are stories of political  showdowns and triumphs.

"It's the story of my life," Pawlenty said.

In an interview with MPR News, Pawlenty said he hopes his story can be instructive to others. 

"You know, I grew up in a meat packing town under some difficult circumstances with my mom passing away when I was relatively young," he said, "and of course, have been able to serve in the Minnesota Legislature in a leadership position and as governor faced a lot of challenges, learned some things along the way."

In his book Pawlenty recalls a time when,  as  Minnesota House Majority Leader  he made Gov. Jesse Ventura so angry that he thought Ventura was going to punch him.  

He  writes about the horrific Interstate 35W bridge collapse and an "unnamed" Democrat he claims threatened  to use the tragedy to politically carve him up.

There are stories about trade  missions,  visits to war zones, and encounters with  Minnesota soldiers.

And  there are stories about  Pawlenty getting to know famous people like former President George W. Bush. 

A recurring theme is  Pawlenty's  frustration with the growth of government and with the Obama administration. 

Pawlenty accuses Obama of turning back on campaign promises of reform and more responsible spending. Pawlenty writes that Obama is  driving the country off a cliff.

Carleton College political science professor Steven Schier said all the direct references to Obama leave little doubt of Pawlenty's future plans.

"I think the content of his memoirs indicate that he is running for president," he said. 

"If you're writing a  memoir and attacking an incumbent president consistently in that memoir, it's pretty clear that you're  sort of honing and introducing campaign messages you plan to use on the stump during an election year."

Many things Pawlenty writes about are the same things he's been talking about front of Republican audiences all over the country.

Pawlenty says he'll probably announce  a decision on a run for president in March or April.  If he does throw his hat in the ring,  he would very likely be up against  former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.   

Romney's father was a wealthy Detroit automobile executive and  governor of Michigan.  Pawlenty's dad drove a truck until he lost his job.

Pawlenty spends a lot of his time making the case that he's a regular guy who enjoys mowing the lawn of  his modest suburban Twin Cities home.

In one section of the book that describes Pawlenty being vetted as John McCain's possible running mate, he writes that he and his wife  were practically buried in paperwork late one night without staff help.  They joked that, "no way is Mitt Romney doing this by himself."

Carlton College's Steven Schier said Pawlenty has been trying to burnish the image of himself as a "Sam's Club Republican."

"I think he's trying to  distinguish himself from Mitt Romney who's the probable Republican  front-runner," he said, "who is vastly more wealthy than Tim Pawlenty."

Pawlenty ends the book  by taking credit for dramatically  reducing the growth of government spending in Minnesota.  And he states that conservative leadership can work, in his words, "even in a sea of liberals."

That's another Pawlenty stump speech selling point.  When speaking outside of Minnesota Pawlenty often makes the case that he was elected twice to govern in a place like  Minnesota -- the land of the late Sen. Eugene McCarthy, former Vice President Walter Mondale, the late Sen. Paul Wellstone and Sen. Al Franken.

"We can point to Minnesota and say as Frank  Sinatra sang about New York, 'If we can do it here, we can do it anywhere,'" Pawlenty said.

Pawlenty will soon be headed to New New Hampshire and Iowa -- key presidential primary states -- and other states to promote his new book.