Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty will formally enter the 2012 Republican presidential race on Monday in Iowa, an aide to his campaign confirmed Friday.

Pawlenty is scheduled to be in Des Moines, beginning a week that will take him to Florida for a Facebook town hall meeting and Washington for an appearance at the Cato Institute.

Pawlenty’s decision to announce his candidacy is not surprising — he has been running a national campaign for months. But his decision to do so in Iowa reinforces the importance of that state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses to his chances in the nomination race. He has focused heavily on Iowa in hopes of building momentum there.

Although Pawlenty is largely unknown to most GOP voters, many Republican political observers consider him the most credible candidate in the field, in the event that front-running former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who has formed an exploratory committee, stumbles badly.