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Political Notebook

Pawlenty shows signs of a presidential run

Globe Staff / September 23, 2009

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Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty plans to launch a national fund-raising committee, the latest sign that he is looking at running for president in 2012.

Pawlenty adviser Alex Conant said yesterday that the “Freedom First’’ committee will be launched in the next few weeks. He called it the logical next step for Pawlenty, who earlier announced he would not seek reelection next year and who has been giving speeches and campaigning for Republicans around the country.

But the Democratic National Committee says the move betrays Pawlenty’s pledge to finish his term strong.

“This is just more evidence that Pawlenty is, at best, a part-time governor who cares more about his national political ambitions than the people of Minnesota,’’ DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan said in a statement.

Conant responded: “When the governor said he wouldn’t seek reelection, he said in addition to finishing his term strong, he would help other Republicans candidates, and obviously a PAC is one key way to do that.’’

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney launched a similar PAC last year after dropping out of the GOP nomination fight.

The Free & Strong America PAC reported that it had raised $2.3 million for the 2010 election cycle, with about $811,000 in cash as of Aug. 31.

Frank has all the right answers on Leno show

Representative Barney Frank became a YouTube star last month with his putdown of a woman who accused him of supporting a “Nazi’’ health care policy.

Monday night, his media star rose a little higher with an appearance on Jay Leno’s new primetime comedy show.

Frank, a Newton Democrat and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, was the latest newsmaker to answer “10 questions at 10’’ on the show - and he brought his usual acerbic wit.

Question number four was which conservative he would have dinner with if he absolutely had to - and if the choices were Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, or Ann Coulter.

Frank seemed to think all those options would be rather distasteful, but finally answered: “I would take Rush Limbaugh because it would be very painful, and he would come with the pain-killers’’ - a reference to the radio talk show host’s well-publicized addiction and arrest.

Leno asked number six: “What was the last thing you said to a president that you wish you could take back?’’ Without missing a beat, Frank replied, “Don’t worry Mr. Clinton, they don’t have the guts to impeach you.’’

Health premiums will keep rising, Biden warns

In one of his first forays into the thick of the health care debate, Vice President Joe Biden yesterday used a new White House report on premium increases to warn that without an overhaul, families will face higher and higher costs.

According to the White House report, the national average annual family premium for employer-sponsored health insurance rose to $13,375 in 2009, up 5.5 percent during a recession when overall inflation fell by 0.7 percent. In Massachusetts, premiums jumped 119 percent between 1999 and 2009, about three times the 35 percent increase in wages, the report said.