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Pawlenty explains Facebook announcement, name ID

From NBC’s Catherine Chomiak
Tim Pawlenty yesterday became the first bona fide potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate to announce the formation of a presidential exploratory committee. Lesser-known businessman Herman Cain and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer (R) have also already formed committees.

The former Minnesota governor’s announcement came in the form of a Facebook message. In the only media appearance he made after his announcement, Pawlenty told Fox News the decision to announce his committee on Facebook came from a desire to be on the “cutting edge” and called the social networking site “the wave of the future.” In making the announcement on Facebook, he became the first candidate in history to do so. He also said the site would be a helpful tool “to grow the conservative movement and reach out to new voters.”

But did it work? The video is certainly cutting edge. Pawlenty narrates while music swells in the background and fast-paced video flashes on the screen. The spot looks more like a movie trailer than the usual political ad. As for gaining supporters, he is only up about 5,000 “likes” on his Facebook page. Yesterday, before the announcement Tim Pawlenty had around 74,000 people who “like” him on Facebook. Today, he’s up to a little over 79,000. And consider that the only way to view the message on Facebook was to “like” the page. So that 5,000 will inevitably include members of the media, who clicked just to view the video.

Compare that with Sarah Palin’s roughly 2.8 million Facebook followers. (Not that Facebook followers equates to political strength as much as celebrity status.)

In a telephone town hall yesterday, Pawlenty didn’t seem worried. When answering from a supporter on the call about poll numbers and name recognition Pawlenty was unfazed. “If you're a serious candidate for president of the United States and get any reasonable amount of traction,” he said, “then you're name I.D. will be 100 percent by the time the process enters the serious stage.”

Plus, there are still 10 months before the scheduled Iowa and New Hampshire contests. And both are states in which retail politics is key. In other words, neither contest is contingent upon national name ID. Candidates, like Rudy Giuliani, for example, in 2007, who led national polls certainly found those polls didn’t matter.

Talking campaign strategy, Pawlenty said his goal is to unify the conservative movement. “If you think about the conservative coalition and the party more broadly,” he said, “there's overlap between these groups, but as it relates to economic conservatives, social conservatives, libertarian, tea party conservatives, national defense conservatives, I think I'm going to be unique in the field to be able to deeply and genuinely appeal across that whole spectrum.”

Looking forward, Pawlenty said on FOX to expect key staff announcements to come over the next couple days. His big announcement of an official campaign will follow shortly thereafter. The latest guidance NBC has received is sometime this spring, probably in May.

“We’re not going to draw this out for a long period of time,” Pawlenty said. “That formal announcement or fuller announcement will come relatively soon.”