Tim Pawlenty, who has sometimes struggled to find the right tone, announced his run for the presidency today. Two elements that had been missing were in abundance: gravitas and political boldness.

Starting with his ad (in which he appears in black and white), he demonstrated a new soberness about the troubles the country faces:

In both the ad and more so in the speech he presented himself as the guy willing to deliver hard truths:

This is a time for truth.

That’s why later this week I’m going to New York City to tell Wall Street that if I’m elected, the era of bailouts, handouts and carve-outs will be over. No more subsidies, no more special treatment. No more Fannie and Freddie, no more TARP, and no more “too big to fail.”

Success in our economy must once again be determined by the ingenuity of competing businesses and the judgment of the marketplace, period.

There’s more.

Tomorrow, I’m going to Florida to tell both young people and seniors the truth — that our entitlement programs are on an unsustainable path and that inaction is no longer an option.

Our national debt, combined with Obamacare, have placed Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in real peril. I’ll tell young people the truth that over time and for them only, we’re going to gradually raise their Social Security retirement age.

And I’ll also tell the truth to wealthy seniors that we will means-test Social Security’s annual cost-of-living adjustment.

Medicare must be also be reformed with “pay for performance” incentives that reward good doctors and wise consumers.

And we need to block-grant Medicaid to the states. There, innovative reformers closest to the patients can solve problems and save money.

This week I’ll also be in Washington, D.C., to remind the federal bureaucracy that government exists to serve its citizens, not its employees. . . .

That means freezing federal salaries, transitioning federal employee benefits and downsizing the federal workforce as it retires. It means paying public employees for results, not just seniority — from the Capitol to the classroom and everywhere in between.

And in the private sector, it means no card check — not now, not ever. It means no more taxpayer bailouts just because you gave lots of money to a campaign. And it especially means the National Labor Relations Board will never again tell an American company where it can and can’t do business.

I’m here today to tell Iowans the truth, too. . . .

The part in his speech about phasing out ethanol subsidies is pretty gutsy, a redux of Sen. John McCain in 2008 (who placed fourth in the Iowa caucuses).

Did Pawlenty always have this steel-in-the-spine quality? Maybe he’s been working on it. But he seems to have found a rhythm. I don’t see that people will be complaining he's too “nice”; polite, maybe. But if he’s willing to go the Ryan-Daniels-Christie “I’m not here to be popular, I’m here to save America” route, he could be, albeit by default, the not-Romney who could win this. Unless, of course, he gets big-footed by the real Paul Ryan or Chris Christie.