Pawlenty staffs up in New Hampshire

Likely GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty on Thursday announced a series of staff additions in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire.

The eight volunteer hires who will serve on the former Minnesota governor's New Hampshire steering committee includes three veterans of Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) successful 2008 Granite State primary campaign.

Pawlenty was the first top-tier candidate to form an exploratory committee and is gearing up to make an official announcement for president in the coming weeks.

State education chief John Lyons previously served as New Hampshire chairman of Pawlenty's Freedom First PAC and as vice chairman of McCain's 2008 New Hampshire campaign. Nashua GOP activist Dave MacLaughlin and state Rep. Shaun Doherty (R) also played roles on the McCain campaign in New Hampshire.

Pawlenty also snagged Manchester Republican Committee Chairman Cliff Hurst, who worked as co-chairman of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's 2008 New Hampshire campaign and former state Rep. Bill Cahill (R), who worked for former Sen. Fred Thompson's (R-Tenn.) 2008 bid in New Hampshire. 

Pawlenty's team is not without a blemish: MacLaughlin spent time in Massachusetts prison in 2009 for felony drunk driving. He was not forced to give up his seat as a Nashua alderman since his crime was not considered a felony in the Granite State.

"Dave McLaughlin is a volunteer supporter of Governor Pawlenty and well-respected member of the Nashua community," said Rich Killion, a senior adviser to Pawlenty's exploratory committee in New Hampshire. "Dave made terrible mistakes and has to live with those mistakes. The governor supports Dave's commitment to redemption."

-- This post was last updated at 4:25 p.m.