It could pay to be the first. Tim Pawlenty is the first of the major GOP candidates to go public with his likely candidacy for the Presidency. Even though he has not formally announced, Governor Pawlenty has formed the exploratory committee, hired a campaign manager and put together an Iowa press schedule, bottom line – he is running.

"T-Paw," as he is affectionately called, was not well known before 2008 when he was one of a handful of leading choices to be picked as Senator McCain’s running mate.

Of course, as we all know, Gov. Pawlenty did not get that nod. However, he did not become bitter or distance himself from the campaign as some other potential vice presidential candidates did. Instead, T-Paw continued to be a vocal and effective advocate for the McCain-Palin presidential campaign. Such loyalty won Governor Pawlenty high marks both from the Republican establishment and the GOP populace.

2008 is a long time ago and it's practically forever in politics.

Since 2008 T-Paw has gone from serving as a popular governor of Minnesota with little national name recognition to a trendy possible V.P. pick for Senator McCain to a major GOP candidate for the presidency.

With the Republican primaries just about 9 months away, the key question is whether Governor Pawlenty can continue on that upward political trajectory. This author thinks that he absolutely can. Here are 3 reasons why:

First, Governor Pawlenty was a Republican governor in the historically liberal state of Minnesota. He knows how to win tough elections, both at the primary and general levels.

Second, T-Paw has a very broad appeal that spans the conservative political spectrum all the way from the “Tea Party” supporters on the right to the independents in the middle who may not share the social values of the far right but are very conservative economically.

Third, the rollout of his national profile and agenda has been steady and effective. He has not tried to burst onto the scene, but instead has used his message of opportunity and American exceptionalism to make strides in popularity and approval.

There is no question that we are just at the beginning of the GOP primary road. Within the next 2 to 3 months many significant candidates will declare their intentions to seek the Republican Party's nomination.

However, Gov. Pawlenty is smartly using his status as an early entrant fully to his advantage. His disapproval of the budget deal has garnered the kind of media attention necessary to gain further recognition and popularity. The fact that these gains are being made while other potential and presumptive candidates are on the sideline makes them doubly important and beneficial.

The common adage “showing up is half the battle,” applies here. In the case of the 2012 primary for Governor Pawlenty it may very well be that by showing up first, T-Paw wins the battle.

Boris Epshteyn is a political strategist, attorney and business consultant in New York City. He served as a communications aide on the 2008 McCain-Palin  presidential campaign. He is a frequent guest on "FoxNews.com Live."