Tim Pawlenty to make presidential announcement today

After years of inching toward a 2012 presidential bid, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is expected to actually make a formal step toward the nomination.

This afternoon, Pawlenty will announce plans to launch a presidential exploratory committee, according to Associated Press sources. The committee will allow him to raise money toward a campaign and hire campaign staffers.

More importantly, this means Pawlenty will have to file formal paperwork with the Federal Election Commission, meaning he'll officially be exploring the idea of running for president. That's about the best hard evidence we've seen of an official campaign yet.

Not that Pawlenty's political aspirations haven't been obvious.

Since T-Paw announced he wouldn't seek another term as governor, he's been doing everything he can to find national attention, including frequent trips to Iowa and New Hampshire and taking public shots at Obama every time a reporter is in earshot.

Though polls show he's still a stranger to most of the country, Pawlenty's starting to get some recognition. In February, he made it on the cover of National Review. Stephen Colbert recently ran a lengthy segment ribbing T-Paw's over-the-top trailer for his new book, Courage to Stand.

Earlier this month, Pawlenty told reporters he'd decide in two or three weeks whether he'd make his presidential bid official or fizzle into obscurity. That was about two weeks ago.

Pawlenty is expected to make the announcement at 3 p.m. today. If you want to be the first to hear it, you'll need a Facebook account and to "Like" Pawlenty.

That's right, this a social-media exclusive announcement:

Tim Pawlenty to make presidential announcement today

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