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Reality Check: Pawlenty’s ‘I’m Running’ Gaffe

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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By Pat Kessler, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Did former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty announce his presidential bid on CNN Tuesday night? And why does it matter?

On CNN’s Piers Morgan show, Pawlenty said in response to a question:

“I’m running for president. I’m not putting my hat in the ring rhetorically or ultimately for vice president. So I’m focused on running for president.”

But did he really mean it?

What Pawlenty was asked was actually a question about Donald Trump and Trump’s presidential ambitions.

Morgan asked: “In a hypothetical scenario, governor, if somebody like Donald Trump was to emerge as the Republican nominee and asked you to be vice president, would you accept that honor?”

Pawlenty said he’s formed an exploratory committee for a possible 2012 presidential bid and that he would make an official announcement soon.

Candidates who form exploratory committees like Pawlenty don’t need to immediately disclose their activities.

But once you’re an official candidate, the rules change.

Here’s how the Federal Election Commission (FEC) determines if a candidate is official:

“An individual who merely tests the waters, but does not campaign for office, does not have to register or report as a candidate.  Therefore, while a campaign committee files disclosure reports, a testing the waters fund does not have to file reports until the candidacy is established.  At this point, all testing the waters activities must be disclosed on the next scheduled FEC report.  A testing the waters fund abides by the same contribution limits and prohibitions as a campaign committee.  There are activities that indicate that an individual is campaigning and, therefore no longer testing the waters.  Among these are:

  • Making statements that refer to yourself as a candidate;
  • Using advertising to publicize your intention to campaign; or
  • Taking action to qualify for the ballot.”

Pawlenty said, unequivocally, that he’s running for president, but his supporters say it’s taken out of context.

No one has filed a complaint, yet.

The Democratic Party official said, “The real issue here is that Pawlenty made a rookie mistake and bought himself a lot of trouble — this really is an example of not being ready for primetime.”

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