Twelve in 2012 - Tim Pawlenty

Tonight on "Special Report with Bret Baier," the third edition of the "Twelve in 2012" series.

Each night Special Report will profile one of a dozen potential Republican presidential contenders. When it's all over, look for a documentary special that lays out the state of the 2012 race inside the GOP.

With each new installment, Power Play will analyze the candidate's strengths, weaknesses and odds of success.

Tim Pawlenty

Age: 49

Current Position: Governor of Minnesota (elected in 2002)

Previous experience: Chairman of the National Governors Association (2007-2008) Minnesota House Majority Leader (1999-2002); Minnesota House of Representatives (1992-1999); Eagan (Minn.) City Council (1990-1992); Eagan Planning Commission (1988-1989); employment lawyer (1986-2000)

Education: University of Minnesota for undergraduate and law school

Family: Wife, Mary, two daughters

What you might not know:

As a young adult, Pawlenty left the Catholic Church of his German and Polish forbearers for an evangelical Baptist denomination.

His Pitch: A Bigger Tent

If the Republican Party really is becoming the blue collar party in America, Tim Pawlenty might be the guy to lead it.

It was nearly a decade ago that Pawlenty said that the GOP needed to be the party of "Sam's Club, not just the country club." The years that followed have, in fact, seen Republicans increasingly reliant on the working class for votes.

While the GOP can still win with college-educated voters, as in the 2010 midterms, the party's base is increasingly blue collar, especially compared to the coalition of urban elites and poor voters that back President Obama.

Pawlenty, the first person in his family to graduate from college, even comes from the kind of far, big box suburb that Republicans target election after election. If Republicans are to be a viable national party, they must succeed with middle-class voters in places like the strip malls and cul de sacs of Egan, Minn.

Pawlenty has been a budget whiz in Minnesota, closing huge shortfalls without tax increases, even with a hostile Democratic majority in the statehouse. His supporters argue that Pawlenty's success in balancing budgets in a Democratic state will equip him to take on spending in Washington.

Many Republicans believe one of the reasons John McCain passed over Pawlenty for a vice-presidential pick in 2008was the governor's lack of a national profile. Immediately after the election, Pawlenty began increasing his national profile inside the GOP. His FreedomFirst PAC has raised and distributed millions since he started in 2009.

Another advantage of having been out exploring a presidential run for so long is that Pawlenty has already locked up some of the top GOP campaign talent.

The Knocks: Minnesota Nice

Other than his Democratic adversaries in the Minnesota legislature, very few people are likely to get fired up at the mention of "T-Paw."

A nice guy whose humility is praised far and wide in Republican circles, Pawlenty is also thought by many to lack killer instincts. Pawlenty would have to not only thrash his way into the Republican nomination but face down an Obama reelection effort that is already limbering up its big guns for an assault on the eventual GOP nominee.

Then there's geography. Pawlenty touts his ties to neighboring Iowa, but the upper Midwest doesn't play that big a role in Republican politics. In the GOP, the South matters most. Then, big states like Florida and California. Minnesota, which would be tough for the GOP to carry even with Pawlenty on the ticket, doesn't have a lot of clout inside the party.

Power Play's Odds on Nomination: 10 to 1