ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Aides say Tim Pawlenty will take the first formal step toward a presidential bid Monday afternoon with the likely creation of an exploratory committee.

Using Facebook, the former Minnesota governor is expected to make the announcement at 3 p.m. EDT. The move almost certainly will lead to a full-blown candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.

The aides spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity in advance of the official word .

The committee clears the way for Pawlenty to raise money and hire more staff. It requires him to file formal paperwork with the Federal Election Commission.

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