Tim Pawlenty makes it official: He's all in for president (video)

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has become the first of the big time Republican candidates to officially enter into the 2012 presidential election, making the announcement Monday with this nearly two minute video message on Facebook.

When people who care about these things discuss the possible challengers to Barack Obama in 2012, one of two things usually happens;  They will say that there is a dearth of truly charismatic people in the GOP race, which is why there is an opening for someone that might generally be considered not to have paid his (or her) dues could make a serious run: we're talking people like Chris Christie, Marco Rubio and perhaps Paul Ryan.

Or, sticking with the suspects that are presumed to be running, the obvious front runner is Mitt Romney - what with his Central Casting looks, his access to lots of cash, the inroads he made in 2008, and the fact that he has solid bases all across the country (New England, from being the Governor of Massachusetts; Michigan, where his father was Governor; Utah, where he "saved" the Winter Olympic Games in 2002, and even California, where he moved to after the '08 campaign in La Jolla).

Right next to Romney is the 50-year-old Pawlenty, who still needs to work considerably to get his name known to GOP voters.  Pawlenty has obviously been a candidate for awhile, but felt he could no longer wait to get into the race.  By announcing his candidacy with only 9 days left in a first quarter reporting period for contributions, nobody will expect anything when those results are made public next month.

Now Pawlenty has to start raising some serious coin now and over the next three months.  In July, when the next reporting period is announced, he has to show some credibility by raising a certain amount of money to impress folks that he's a serious candidate.  We don't know what that number is, but it will be a story, one way or another, later this summer.