Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he'll make a decision whether to formally run for president within the next 45 days.

Pawlenty, one of the potential Republican candidates considered a serious contender for president in 2012, said he hasn't finalized his decision, but reiterated that he's leaning toward running.

Pawlenty told Minnesota Public Radio on Tuesday that he'll make a decision "sometime in the next 45 days or less," and told the Wall Street Journal basically the same thing, saying his decision would be "sometime in the next month, month and a half or less."

The characteristic marking the Republican field of presidential candidates so far is just how few of them have formally entered the race. In years past, both Democratic and Republican candidates who considered running often declared their candidacies in January, if not earlier.

It had looked as though former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) was preparing to be the first major Republican to jump into the race on Thursday, but his spokesman shot down reports to that effect on Tuesday evening.

The advantage to the prolonged waiting period is that it allows possible candidates to organize their efforts and test the waters longer without wearing out staffers or burning through resources. On the flip side, it's tougher for candidates to raise money for their campaign or get the kind of media attention they might desire if they haven't formally entered the race.

Whatever the case, Pawlenty said he expected a somewhat crowded Republican field by the time all candidates do jump into the race.

"I don't know if that number's going to be four, five, eight or nine, but certainly there will be a wide variety of choices for people to look at and choose from," he told the Wall Street Journal. "It'll be a decent size field."