Republican former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty officially launched his presidential campaign in Des Moines, Iowa on Monday. As Philip Rucker reported:

Republican Tim Pawlenty launched his campaign for president here Monday by saying he would substantially scale back the role of government in society, including cutting or eliminating popular federal programs.

The former Minnesota governor said he would gradually raise the retirement age for Social Security, overhaul Medicare, freeze federal worker salaries and, perhaps most consequential in the early presidential battleground of Iowa, end ethanol subsidies.

Kicking off a week of campaigning in the early voting states with an announcement speech here in Des Moines, Pawlenty presented himself as a serious candidate for serious times who has the courage to tell Americans the truth about the challenges the country faces.

“We need to cut spending — and we need to cut it big time,” Pawlenty said in a 23-minute speech before a few hundred supporters on the sun-drenched terrace of the Iowa Historical Building overlooking the Iowa State Capitol. “The hard truth is that there are no longer any sacred programs.”

Pawlenty released a video on the eve of his announcement which promised to ‘tell the American people the truth’ about the challenges facing America. As AP explained:

Republican Tim Pawlenty offered a sneak peak Sunday at his presidential kickoff, blasting out an Internet video in which he promises a campaign that “tells the American people the truth” and suggests that President Barack Obama doesn’t.

In the new video, the former Minnesota governor formally declares he’s running for president, something aides said he’d do in person Monday morning during a town hall forum in Iowa. Pawlenty bypassed a launch in his home state to make his inaugural appearance as a candidate in the state that holds the leadoff caucuses, which he acknowledges he must fare well in to preserve his hopes of the GOP nomination.

He says in the video that the country needs a president who will be frank with Americans about the severe challenges facing the country and how America can get back on track. He mentions the climbing federal debt and a slow recovery from the economic recession that’s left millions jobless.

“We’re going to have to do more than just give fancy speeches; we’ve had three years of that and it’s not working,” Pawlenty says. “Join me tomorrow and around the country in the days and weeks ahead. You won’t hear empty promises, you’ll hear solutions.”

With the entry of Tim Pawlenty and exit of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels , the GOP presidential field has help to solidfy a Republican field that has seen several expected candidates drop out. As Karen Tumulty and Dan Balz reported:

Mitch Daniel’s decision not to run for president in 2012, while deflating the hopes of many in the Republican establishment, has helped solidify what has been a fluid GOP field and brings more clarity to the challenges ahead for each of the leading contenders.

Daniels, who had been deliberating for more than a year, made his announcement around midnight Saturday. He joined a growing list of potential candidates who looked at the race and decided to take a pass.

GOP strategists say that the removal of Daniels as a factor has made it even more obvious that the contest is becoming one between presumed front-runner Mitt Romney and a pack of underdogs hoping to emerge as the alternative to the former Massachusetts governor.

There are still a handful of possible candidates — among them, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota — who have not yet announced their intentions.

And the dismay that some influential Republicans are feeling over Daniels’s refusal to run may well spark a renewal of their efforts to coax such conservative stars as ex-Florida governor Jeb Bush and current New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie into the race.

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