NEW YORK - Wearing a gray suit and black cowboy boots -- like a regular guy running for president -- former Gov. Tim Pawlenty rode the freight elevator on Tuesday to "Good Morning America's" second-floor studio overlooking Times Square.

There, ABC host George Stephanopoulos wasn't buying Pawlenty's disclaimers about promoting his new book, "Courage to Stand," now hitting the book stores.

"This reads ... like the book of a man who certainly wants to run," Stephanopoulos said.

If interviewers like Stephanopoulos on "GMA" and Barbara Walters on "The View" were inclined to treat the book as part of the standard campaign ritual, Pawlenty's media blitz through upper Manhattan did little to dissuade them.

"I'm not going to be cute about it. I'm seriously considering running for president," Pawlenty said as he walked down 44th Street between appointments with Fox News' Sean Hannity, the New York Times, "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart, Neil Cavuto, "Good Morning America," CNN and "The View" (where he playfully anointed Whoopi Goldberg as his running mate).

It's a well-trod path for presidential hopefuls, including such better-known Republican rivals as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, all of whom have penned best-selling memoirs.

"Pawlenty has to introduce himself, naturally," said Washington political analyst Stuart Rothenberg. "I don't know how well his book will do, but it's part of the American political ritual."

Not well known

The challenge for Pawlenty remains his relative obscurity. Despite repeated forays to Washington, D.C., and frequent stints on cable TV talk shows, Pawlenty has yet to capture the national political limelight.

"I had no idea who he was until my sister told me about him yesterday," said New Jersey resident Mary Ann Ammon, a member of "The View's" studio audience. Ammon's sister lives in Faribault, Minn. "He's a nice guy, that's all she said," recalled Ammon.

On the air, Walters asked Pawlenty if his public image is perhaps "too nice." That gave Pawlenty a chance to say that civility and thoughtfulness -- qualities that have taken on new political significance in the wake of the Arizona rampage -- should not be confused with a lack of strength.

"He's got my vote," whispered New Jersey resident Philip Pace, another member of the studio audience who had never heard of Pawlenty. "I really like him."

With a view toward his target demographic of conservative, faith-based voters in early caucus states like Iowa, Pawlenty hopes to transform himself into a fresh Republican voice emerging from "a sea" of Minnesota liberals like Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale and Paul Wellstone.

One initial hurdle for Pawlenty: Most political memoirs are sold on the strength of their authors' fame. "I don't know how well this book will sell outside Minnesota," said book marketing consultant John Kremer, a Minnesota native whose New Mexico company advises new authors. "He's just not that highly visible."

Successful political memoirs published by figures like Palin and President Obama, some industry analysts say, tend to follow their rise to national prominence. "Palin's fame is so immense ... she doesn't need a book to establish her credentials with the party faithful," said Todd Orjala, senior acquisitions editor at the University of Minnesota Press.

Pawlenty has downplayed his book's inevitable connection to his political future, which he says he will announce in a month or two.

But at least six of the stops on his month-long nationwide tour are in Iowa and New Hampshire, two states critical for establishing his credibility as a presidential candidate.

A political statement

Whatever Pawlenty's decision, his book is being received in the publishing world and the media as a campaign biography -- that is, a book in the service of a political quest.

"They tend to be political statements more than books for the ages," said David Enyeart, of the Minneapolis booksellers Magers & Quinn.

As such, Pawlenty's book will be compared to those of other GOP contenders. Palin's "Going Rogue" sold 1.5 million copies and spent 12 weeks on the New York Times bestsellers list.

Near the roots of the genre, ground no politician has touched since, was John F. Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage," a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography published in 1955, five years before he was elected president.

A closer comparison for Pawlenty might be Romney, who ran in 2008 and who is now widely seen as the frontrunner for the GOP nomination in 2012. His book, "No Apology," published last year, has sold a more modest 112,000 copies and spent five weeks on the Times' bestsellers list.

With either comparison, the stakes for Pawlenty are high.

"If it doesn't sell," Kremer said, "he should read the writing on the walls."

Pawlenty, mindful of the odds, prefers to rest on the journey that took him from his blue-collar roots in South St. Paul to the governor's mansion up the hill. "This is not intended to be some sort of -- I hope it is -- global bestseller," Pawlenty said. "It is geared more toward being a memoir of my time as governor and my life before that."

Kevin Diaz is a Star Tribune Washington correspondent