Pawlenty to attend first GOP debate

Likely GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty on Friday committed to attend the first primary debate of the 2012 cycle, to be held next Thursday in South Carolina.

Pawlenty's announcement was expected — he had been billed as an expected attendee by the debate's organizers, the South Carolina GOP and Fox News.

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"President Obama’s failed policies have seriously jeopardized our nation’s future and it’s time for Republicans to show leadership and engage in the battle of ideas," he said in a statement. "We have to stand up for America every chance we get, and I for one look forward to doing that on Thursday in South Carolina."

The former Minnesota governor's announcement comes one day after the staff of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), another possible candidate expected to participate, said he is unlikely to attend.

Organizers are requiring that participants have at least formed a presidential exploratory committee in order to be onstage at the debate. Gingrich has not yet taken that formal step.

"It's becoming increasingly clear that we're not going to make the deadline," Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler told National Journal. "We had always planned to be in the debate and want to be in the debate, but I don't think we will.''

Pawlenty is the only major candidate to officially confirm his attendance. In addition to Pawlenty, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and long-shot candidate and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer (R) are expected to participate.

He even joked about the dearth of committed candidates on Lou Dobbs's radio show later Friday.

"I may be the only one there, it seems like," he said.

Pawlenty said his committee will file the necessary paperwork and pay the required fees to the South Carolina secretary of state by next Tuesday.

"It's important that Republicans show up now, talk about their records and begin the debate on how best we can defeat this president," he said.

-- This post was updated at 4:44 p.m.

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