Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) hired a full-time staff member in Iowa and plans a trip back to the key state for presidential nominations.

A spokesman for the potential 2012 candidate confirmed a Des Moines Register report that Pawlenty had hired a staff member in the Hawkeye State, suggesting the governor is moving closer to a presidential bid.

"Governor Pawlenty is working hard to help elect conservatives across the country this fall," said Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant. "We have a lot of opportunity in Iowa, and we want to do everything we can to help there."

Pawlenty is also preparing another trip to the state, which hosts the first-in-the-cycle presidential nominating contests, in October. The Minnesota governor will attend an Iowa Freedom and Faith Coalition event and the Hamilton County Chili Supper. Pawlenty will also do events for state Sen. Randy Feenstra and state Rep. Dave Deyoe.