WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who was on Senator John McCain's short list for vice presidential running mate in 2008, is fighting low poll numbers and his vanilla image to remain in the 2012 Republican U.S. presidential field.
Pawlenty, a hockey player who hopes to craft an image of a scrappy underdog, recently lambasted U.S. President Barack Obama's stewardship of the deficit talks, and stepped up his attack on Republican White House hopeful Michelle Bachmann, who leads him in polls but not fundraising.
Political analysts said the Ames, Iowa straw poll, scheduled for August 13, is critical for Pawlenty. If he does not win, "he's essentially done," says Steve Deace, a conservative activist in the state.
Here are some facts about Pawlenty:
* The son of a truck driver who grew up near stockyards and a meat-packing plant, Pawlenty, 50, entered the Minnesota governor's office in 2003 by stressing his modest roots. He was elected governor after his predecessor, former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura, decided not to seek re-election.
* He was 16 when his mother died of cancer and his father lost his job. Pawlenty went on to work his way through college and law school at the University of Minnesota.
* Pawlenty has spent more time campaigning in Iowa than any other Republican candidate, yet still remains in single digits in polls.
* Pawlenty and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, also a presidential candidate, have traded jabs in recent days. He says Bachmann lacks accomplishments. She says Pawlenty is to blame for Minnesota's budget woes.
* T-Paw, as he is known to supporters, edged Bachmann's haul of campaign cash by roughly $100,000, raising about $4.3 million in the second quarter, short of the $5 million some analysts had predicted. This was also far below Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts.
* He claims success at eliminating a $4.3 billion budget deficit in Minnesota but Democrats in the state say he only papered over the budget hole with short-term measures that did not address the problem.
* The soft-spoken Pawlenty sees a virtue in avoiding attacking opponents. During the first television debate of Republican hopefuls this month he refused to criticize possible rival Mitt Romney's record on healthcare because the former Massachusetts governor was not there to defend himself.
(Reporting by David Morgan and Alistair Bell; Additional reporting by Todd Melby and Eric Johnson; Editing by Greg McCune)