So maybe it’s time to call the former Minnesota governor “Tea-Paw.”

He says his aggressive outreach to tea party audiences is one important part of a strategy to assemble the diverse network of backers he needs to go national and win the GOP nomination. He’s not focusing solely on this emerging force in party politics, he says, perhaps mindful not to alienate other Republican groups.

“I’m not trying to introduce myself to the tea party. I’m trying to introduce myself to the whole party … because I’m not known outside of Minnesota,” Pawlenty told The Associated Press in a telephone interview ahead of a Saturday appearance at a tea party rally at the Iowa Statehouse. He spoke at a similar rally in Boston on Friday and to the movement’s national summit in Phoenix in February.