Pawlenty Drops Out of Presidential Race After Disappointing Straw Poll Finish

Pawlenty announces his exit from 2012 presidential race on ABC's "This Week."

August 14, 2011, 9:44 AM

Aug. 14, 2011— -- Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is dropping out of the Republican presidential contest, after a disappointing third-place finish in the Iowa Straw Poll Saturday.

"We needed to get some lift to continue on and have a pathway forward," Pawlenty said this morning in an exclusive interview on "This Week." "That didn't happen, so I'm announcing this morning on your show that I'm going to be ending my campaign for president.

"I'm very, very grateful for the people of Iowa," Pawlenty added. "I wish it would have been different, but obviously the pathway forward for me doesn't really exist, so we're going to end the campaign."

Pawlenty, 50, finished with 2,293 votes in the straw poll, giving him 14 percent of the total ballots cast, more than 2,500 votes behind winner Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who finished with 28 percent of the vote, and runner-up Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, who was close behind with 27 percent.

The former Minnesota governor was reportedly planning to spend a total of around $1.5 million on his Iowa campaign from his launch in late May through mid-August. Despite better resources and organization in Iowa, Pawlenty was only able to beat fourth-place finisher Rick Santorum by a little more than 600 votes.

"We had some success raising money, but we needed to continue that and Ames was a benchmark for that," Pawlenty said. "And if we didn't do well in Ames, we weren't going to have the fuel to keep the car going down the road."

When Pawlenty entered the presidential race in late May he was touted as the possible lead alternative to GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney, but those high expectations were never realized. Despite a strong campaign team, good organization, and a consistent focus on Iowa, Pawlenty never gained any real traction in the Hawkeye State, evidenced by his poor showing in Ames.

"There's a lot of other choices in the race. And for me, what I brought forward I thought was a rational, established, credible, strong record of results, based on experience governing – a two-term governor of a blue state," Pawlenty said. "But I think the audience, so to speak, was looking for something different."

One indication of just how disappointing his Ames finish was: in recent weeks, Pawlenty had covered around 3,000 miles traveling around Iowa in a bid to win the straw poll, while at the same time rivals Bachmann and Paul were regularly pulled away from the campaign trail to head back to Washington for votes in the House.

Once Pawlenty finished so far behind the two of them in Ames, the writing was on the wall. Having put so much into the straw poll, he was now short on funds and would no longer be able to convince donors to give money to a campaign that was clearly struggling.

"I'm from a small state, I don't have a big financial network or a political network," Pawlenty said. "So I think the measure of us in this phase was really, can you get some lift out of Ames to get the anty, if you will, to get to the next round. And that didn't happen, unfortunately."

Pawlenty sent out an email to supporters last night, titled "Just the Beginning," congratulating Bachmann on the straw poll win, but vowing to continue his campaign.

"As I've said all along, we needed to show progress to do well, and we did just that. This is a long process to restore America -- we are just beginning, and I'm eager for the campaign," the email to supporters read.

But the weak showing at the Iowa Straw Poll proved to be too large a blow for the campaign to continue.

Pawlenty this morning again congratulated Bachmann and Paul on their straw poll results, but said it "is a long journey" for the eventual nomination.

"The party is going to be now more broadly discussing who they want for their candidate, not just in Iowa, but in other places around the country," Pawlenty said. "So we don't know what this ultimately will look like.

"We don't know what's the right or wrong nominee. And all of them are going to be tested, and somebody who can thrive in this process will have their meddle tested, and they'll be improved," Pawlenty added. "But I do believe that we're going to have a very good candidate who's going to beat Barack Obama."