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Tim Pawlenty earns high-marks on low-key trip. But was it too low key?

Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty slipped into Florida for a series of low-key events to raise some much-needed cash and make a pitch to the state’s political elite.

With no public notice or events, Pawlenty wooed eight state lawmakers Thursday at the Biltmore hotel in Coral Gables and a dozen legislators Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency in Tampa. He also met a handful of lawmakers and potential supporters in Orlando. Most will be voters in the Sept. 24 Republican Party of Florida straw poll.

Though he’s polling near the bottom of a crowded GOP field, Pawlenty opted against high-profile events to concentrate on fundraising, organizing and strategizing.

“It’s kind of a buffet of political stuff,” Pawlenty said of his visit to Florida, a must-win state for Republicans seeking the White House.

“We’re not gonna have the Bentley or Mercedes level of funding like some other candidates,” Pawlenty said. “But we will at least have a Buick level to be able to get done in Phase 1, which is the early states, and do it at a competitive level.”

The lawmakers who spoke to The Miami Herald after meeting Pawlenty gave positive reviews, but said they weren’t ready to give endorsements because they wanted to meet all the candidates.

Some wondered why Pawlenty, Minnesota’s governor from 2003-2011, didn’t do more to raise his name-identification by publicizing his trip to Florida.

“He’s got to obviously make a splash going forward, but if he could pull it off he’d make a great candidate for president,” said Hialeah Republican state Rep. Eddy Gonzalez. “He’s not a frontrunner. I’m sure he won’t be. He could be a possible president and hopefully a good one. He’s a decent, honest man.”

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