Pawlenty taps campaign manager

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has chosen Nick Ayers as his presidential campaign manager, his exploratory committee said Monday. 

Ayers, 28, formerly worked as executive director of the Republican Governors Association (RGA). He will start his new job on April 25 and will work at Pawlenty's Minneapolis headquarters. 

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"Mary and I worked alongside Nick at the RGA. He is without question one of the best political talents in America," Pawlenty said in a statement. "We are very excited Nick will lead our team."

The move is a significant step for Pawlenty, who is the only mainstream candidate to form a presidential exploratory committee so far. The former governor appears to be one step closer to officially announcing his candidacy in the coming weeks. 

Ayers was seen as one of the top available GOP operatives available for 2012. He helmed the RGA during one of its most successful recent cycles: Republicans netted six gubernatorial seats and the committee raised tens of millions of dollars for the GOP. 

"His leadership and record of winning tough races in every part of our country will provide even more momentum to our campaign to get America back on track," Pawlenty said. 

During his time at the RGA, Ayers worked under then-Chairman Haley Barbour, the Republican governor of Mississippi who is also a potential presidential candidate. 

Ayers helped oversee the transition effort to new Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus following his stint at the RGA.  

Phil Musser, a senior adviser to Pawlenty during the past two years, will remain at that post, his exploratory committee said.

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