WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty acknowledged on Monday that his presidential campaign will not match Republican rival Mitt Romney’s fund-raising prowess, saying his candidacy would be more like “a good solid Buick” than a BMW.
Trailing in national opinion polls, Pawlenty hopes to become a leading candidate for the Republican nomination by pushing his record as a popular two-term governor who balanced budgets without raising taxes in a Democratic-leaning swing state.
But for now, he remains an underdog in funding and name recognition, as Republicans vie for the chance to challenge incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama.
“We’re not going to be the money champion in the race to start with. My friend, Mitt Romney, will be the front-runner in that regard,” Pawlenty told NBC’s Today show during a round of television interviews a day after announcing his candidacy.
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, has not formally declared his presidential plans. But his exploratory committee raised an impressive $10.25 million in a single day last week.
Pawlenty, who boasts modest origins as the son of a truck driver, said he would still wage a competitive campaign: “It may not be the BMW or the Mercedes campaign. But it’ll be a good solid Buick and maybe even trending toward a Cadillac.”
He has made tackling the $1.4 trillion U.S. budget deficit and growing the economy his main campaign issues, while accusing Obama of being unable to tell voters the truth about what America must do to get its fiscal house in order.
“President Obama, unfortunately, doesn’t have the courage to look the American people in the eye and tell them the tough truth, the things that we’re going to need to do to get our spending under control. I’ll do that,” he said.
OFFICIAL CAMPAIGN STOP
Pawlenty’s prospects rose over the weekend when Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels withdrew as a potential contender. Daniels, a favorite among many top Republicans, left behind a field of potential supporters and campaign donors who have yet to change allegiance to another candidate.
Another Republican, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, has had a rocky start as a presidential candidate.
Pawlenty was due to make his first official campaign stop later on Monday in Iowa, where he faces competition from fellow Minnesotan U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann, a congressional Tea Party leader.
“I don’t know if you need to win it. But you have to do well in Iowa,” he told ABC’s Good Morning America program.
Critics say Pawlenty lacks the charisma needed to win the Republican nomination and beat Obama in the 2012 general election.
“I’m not running for entertainer-in-chief,” Pawlenty explained on NBC.
“These are serious times and they need serious people with serious solutions,” he said. “I’ll bring the solutions forward that will actually fix the country.”
Another potential candidate who has not announced her plans is 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
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