The Associated Press
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Republican Tim Pawlenty, trying to carve out a national identity as he tilts toward a presidential campaign, sculpts an image as a faith-based politician in a memoir infused with Bible verses and the flavor of his blue-collar upbringing.
The former Minnesota governor is out with "Courage to Stand: An American Story," a 301-page autobiography that concludes with a stinging critique of President Barack Obama and a glimpse at what can be viewed as a 2012 platform.
"If I can help to shape America's future for the better in any small way, then it is my duty, and my honor to serve in whatever capacity I can," is as close as he comes in the book to announcing a campaign. He has said he will probably hold back on a final decision until March.
Tuesday is the book's official release, but The Associated Press purchased copies Thursday from store shelves in Roseville, Minn., and Madison, Wis.
Little known compared to rivals Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and others, Pawlenty uses the book to trace a path from a boyhood handling rotten meat in a stockyards town to a political career that made him a vice presidential contender in 2008.
And Pawlenty, who was raised Catholic and later converted to an evangelical church with Baptist roots, heavily emphasizes religion. It's befitting a book from Christian publisher Tyndale House Publishers and a possible political calculation for someone sizing up a White House bid since ruling out a third term as governor.
Social conservatives have an outsized voice in the GOP nominating process, especially in Iowa, where Pawlenty has focused much of his campaign-building work.
An entrance poll done during the 2008 Iowa caucuses found that more than half of the Republicans who turned out described themselves as evangelical Christians, and more than eight in 10 of caucus winner Mike Huckabee's supporters described themselves as born again or evangelical.
During a summer swing there, Pawlenty referenced faith in his speeches and attended church services with a Republican up-and-comer. Last year, he also made an unpublicized appearance at a gathering of Iowa pastors.
As Minnesota's governor, Pawlenty was public in his faith. But his book takes it much further.
He takes readers to the Catholic church in South St. Paul where he first "absorbed God's presence in my life" and carries them through his conversion to Wooddale Church, an interdenominational evangelical megachurch. He describes how he leaned on God when as a teenager his mother died of cancer at age 50, Pawlenty's current age.
Along the way, he shares stories of faith chats with a parking lot attendant at the law firm where he and his wife, Mary, worked and of a prayer circle he brought together as governor for a family who lost a young girl in a tornado. Bible passages dot the text to underscore his message.
Pawlenty said he doesn't presume God "is on my side in matters of public policy. It matters more that I continue to search for wisdom, striving instead to be on God's side."
"I know where my help comes from," Pawlenty adds in another chapter. "God has given each of us time, talents, skills, abilities and resources. We need to use those gifts for a cause and purpose beyond our individual circumstances. For me so far, that has led to public service."
A speech Thursday at the National Press Club serves as the official launch of his book tour, which includes stops in Iowa and New Hampshire. Pawlenty's term ended last week, leaving him without a political office for the first time in more than two decades.
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