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Pawlenty to announce exploratory committee today via Facebook

From NBC's Domenico Montanaro and Carrie Dann
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) will announce that he has formed an exploratory committee to consider running for president in 2012, a senior adviser confirmed to NBC News.

Pawlenty will make the announcement today at 3:00 pm ET on Facebook. The message will be accessible to Facebook users who “like” the former Minnesota governor’s page on the social networking website.

If he decides to officially jump in the race for president, which is very likely, he will do so at a later date -- with more fanfare. The campaign would be headquartered in Minnesota.

The decision has been mulled for weeks by the Pawlenty camp, and they were acutely aware of an uneven rollout by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who announced in a much-covered event earlier this month that he's weighing support for a campaign, but did not launch a formal exploratory committee.

Pawlenty would be the second GOP candidate to take the first formal step toward a presidential run. Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain announced an exploratory committee earlier this year.