DES MOINES, Iowa – Republican Tim Pawlenty offered a sneak peek Sunday at his presidential kickoff, blasting out an Internet video in which he promises a campaign that “tells the American people the truth” and suggests that President Obama doesn’t.

In the new video, the former Minnesota governor formally declares he’s running for president, something aides said he’d do in person this morning during a town hall forum in Iowa. Pawlenty bypassed a launch in his home state to make his inaugural appearance as a candidate in the state that holds the leadoff caucuses, which he acknowledges he must fare well in to preserve his hopes of the GOP nomination.

He says in the video that the country needs a president who will be frank with Americans about the severe challenges facing the country and how America can get back on track. He mentions the climbing federal debt and a slow recovery from the economic recession that’s left millions jobless.

“We’re going to have to do more than just give fancy speeches; we’ve had three years of that and it’s not working,” Pawlenty says. “Join me tomorrow and around the country in the days and weeks ahead. You won’t hear empty promises, you’ll hear solutions.”

The hard swipes at Obama are central to Pawlenty’s effort to prove to GOP primary voters that he’s tough enough to take on the Democrat. He’s combatting an impression he’s too nice to be an aggressive challenger.