Tim Pawlenty will announce that he is forming a presidential exploratory committee later today. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

“There is a brighter future for America,” says Pawlenty in a slickly-produced video packed full of patriotic music and symbolic images. “We know what we need to do: grow jobs, limit government spending and tackle entitlements.”

In the video, Pawlenty also sought to align himself with the likes of past presidents like Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln; “We the people of the United State will take back our government,” he says.

The formation of an exploratory committee will allow Pawlenty to raise money and travel the country in support of what is a near-certain run for president. Pawlenty has been a frequent visitor to early primary and caucus states like Iowa and New Hampshire this year and, through his Freedom First political action committee, has already been hiring staff in each of these states. He is expected to formally announce later this spring.

Pawlenty is the second candidate to take formal steps toward the 2012 race, following longshot Herman Cain into the contest. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is currently in a “testing the waters” phase, a pre-exploratory step. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour appears to be moving toward the race with an April deadline to make a decision. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is widely expected to run.

Other well known candidates like former Alasaka governor Sarah Palin and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee have yet to set any formal timeline for making up their minds on the race.