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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Politics

Jake Gibson

Washington, DC

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Pawlenty In South Carolina, Endorses Haley

June 30, 2010 - 2:46 PM | by: Jake Gibson

Washington (FOX) – Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty made his initial visit to the early presidential primary state of South Carolina Tuesday, also becoming the latest GOP 2012 heavyweight to throw his support behind Republican Nikki Haley’s gubernatorial campaign.

Pawlenty and Haley attended a GOP fundraiser Tuesday night at the home of South Carolina Republican Party chairwoman Karen Floyd in Spartanburg, where he spoke to around 60 conservative activists about fiscal conservatism and the “spending binge” going on in Washington.

Fellow potential GOP White House hopefuls Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney both endorsed and contributed to Haley long before her primary and runoff victories earlier this month. Romney donated an astounding $42,000 through a number of channels of his Free and Strong America political action committee. Both Palin and Romney were also largely silent while Haley was enduring accusations of marital infidelity during the final days of a bruising primary campaign.

By contrast Pawlenty waited until the Republican primary was decided before making his endorsement, “In general, Governor Pawlenty hasn’t gotten involved in competitive Republican primaries. His attitude is that where the nomination process is open and transparent, the grassroots should pick the nominee,” Said Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant. “Haley and Pawlenty had a good conversation last night, and he’s going to work hard to make sure she wins this fall, including direct support and through his work as vice chair of the Republican Governors Association.”

Pawlenty donated $3,500 to Haley through his Freedom First PAC, and another $3,000 to conservative Senator Jim Demint (R-SC). The Minnesota governor heads to Rock Hill Wednesday to raise money for House candidate Mick Mulvaney, to whose campaign Pawlenty also contributed $2,000.

Haley is up against Democratic state senator Vincent Sheehan in the South Carolina gubernatorial race. The latest poll, a phone survey by Rasmussen Reports, shows Haley leading Sheehan 52% to 40%. 

Later in the day Pawlenty will attend a couple private meetings in the state capitol of Columbia. Both of those events will be with Palmetto State GOP insiders, just the kind you need on your team if you want to make a serious run at South Carolina’s “First in the South” 2012 presidential primary.

This visit comes on the heels of the news that earlier this month Pawlenty set up state level political action committees in Iowa and New Hampshire, both hugely important states in presidential politics.

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