ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty dropped out of the race for the GOP presidential nomination on Sunday, hours after finishing a disappointing third in the Iowa straw poll.

“I wish it would have been different, but obviously the pathway forward for me doesn’t exist so we are going to end the campaign,” Pawlenty said on ABC’s “This Week” from Iowa.

The low-key Midwesterner, who had struggled to gain traction in a state he had said he must win, had told supporters on a conference call shortly before the broadcast interview that he was ending his White House bid.

Pawlenty tried to turn up the heat on Obama and his GOP rivals. But it often came across unnatural and he never was able stoked the passions of voters.

“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. But I think the audience, so to speak, was looking for something different,” he said.

In recent weeks, he withered under the rise of tea party favorite Michele Bachmann, whose rallying cry is a sure-fire applause line about making Obama a one-term president, and libertarian-leaning Ron Paul, as well as the promise of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the sharp-tongued Texan who entered the race Saturday.

“I thought I would have made a great president, but obviously that pathway isn’t there,” Pawlenty said. “I do believe we’re going to have a very good candidate who is going to beat Barack Obama.”

NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s Bruce Hagevik Interviews Professor David Schultz, Hamline University

He didn’t immediately endorse a candidate.

Bachmann was quick to praise him, perhaps mindful of the need to broaden her appeal and reach his backers, who span the ideological spectrum.

“I wish him well,” Bachmann said. “He brought a really important voice into the race and I am grateful that he was in. He was really a very good competitor.”

The two-term ex-governor of a Democratic-leaning state was on Arizona Sen. John McCain’s short list for the vice presidential spot in 2008. He had spent roughly two years laying the groundwork for his 2012 campaign and had hoped to become the alternative to the national front-runner, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

But this summer he unexpectedly found himself in a grudge match with Bachmann, who shot to the top of polls in Iowa after getting into the race. Pawlenty struggled to raise money and connect with voters.

He poured most of his money and time into Iowa in the run up to Saturday’s straw poll, a test of organizational strength and popularity in the state whose caucuses lead off the GOP nomination fight.

Pawlenty had acknowledged that he needed a strong finish in the straw poll to show momentum and quiet concerns that his campaign was faltering. He put it all on the line, spending the bulk of his campaign account on TV ads ahead of the contest and on a statewide tour of Iowa.

But Bachmann won with 4,823 votes, while Texas Rep. Paul got 4,671. Pawlenty received 2,293.

Pawlenty said his message “didn’t get the kind of traction or lift that we needed and hoped for coming into the and out of the Ames straw poll. We needed to get some lift to continue on and to have a pathway forward. That didn’t happen.”

Even after the poll, Pawlenty suggested to supporters late Saturday night that he wasn’t dropping out. He called the test vote here “an important first step on the road to the Republican nomination and, ultimately, the White House.

“This is a long process to restore America — we are just beginning, and I’m eager for the campaign.”

Still, he said in a statement after the results were announced: “We have a lot more work to do.”

Hours later, he reversed course in the face of a daunting challenge: convincing donors who were slow to give in the months leading up to the straw poll that he was still a viable candidate. Had he stayed in the race, he would have been competing for money in an expanded field as Perry, a prolific fundraiser with deep ties to the party’s biggest donors, entered the race.

Said Pawlenty: “We weren’t going to have the fuel to keep the car going down the road.”

In Iowa, Pawlenty’s exit means there’s now an available contingent of top GOP staff and consultants, including former state party chairman, former advisers to President George W. Bush and senior advisers to Mike Huckabee’s winning 2008 caucus campaign, including Sarah Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor’s daughter. Top legislators who had signed on to Pawlenty’s camp also now are free to rally behind other candidates.

It’s not yet clear the size of the electorate Pawlenty frees up. GOP activists commonly praised his skill and background, but many were holding out until they met other candidates. This was an especially common reaction among a class of pro-business Republicans in Iowa.

On paper, Pawlenty, 50, seemed to have all the right ingredients as a candidate.

His blue-collar upbringing offered him a natural rapport with middle-class America. He governed as a fiscal hard-liner in a left-leaning state, winning his second term in a year when Republicans elsewhere got drubbed. He made inroads with the right crowds and assembled an all-star cast of advisers with loads of presidential campaign experience.

Pawlenty ran a traditional operation. In the lead-up to his campaign, he spread checks around to local politicians in key states through a political action committee while putting a heavy focus on small-scale events in places such as Iowa and New Hampshire.

But Pawlenty struggled to connect. He came off as bland and rehearsed next to more dynamic contenders. He languished in the polls. Perry’s candidacy shoved Pawlenty further to the side.

His inability to stoke the passions of voters the way other candidates and even noncandidates have was evident.

“He said the right things, that we’re going to limit the size of government and hold down spending,” Sam Buck, a retired veteran from Winterset, said last week after hearing Pawlenty speak. “I like him … but let’s see what Perry of Texas does.”

Pawlenty had been building momentum after a May campaign launch in which he framed himself as the one in the race willing to deliver the hard truths and confront public policy sacred cows. The climb screeched to a halt in a New Hampshire debate in early June, when he shied away from the chance to back up prior tough talk about Romney when they were face to face. It reinforced worries among some Republicans that he wouldn’t be willing to take the fight to Obama as the nominee.

In that same debate, Bachmann declared herself a candidate and immediately cast a long shadow Pawlenty had trouble escaping.

Pawlenty tried for weeks to reel in Bachmann, questioning her accomplishments in office and framing her as a perpetual naysayer. In Thursday’s debate, Pawlenty went even harder at her and said all of the major policies she proudly fought came to pass anyway.

“If that’s your view of effective leadership with results, please stop because you’re killing us,” Pawlenty said to her.

That caused some Republicans to question whether he came on too strong.

Some are wondering if Pawlenty has a future on the national scene.

“There’s still a possibility for him to be a running mate — there’s no question that he has thought about that in 2008. But the question becomes, of course, what does he add to the ticket,” Schultz said.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (45)
  1. O says:


    1. Micha says:

      Thank you, Governor Pawlenty, for your service to the Great State of Minnesota, and for your service to our country.

      1. A. Lincoln says:

        Agreed. He would have been a very good President. Please stay involved, Mr. Pawlenty, you have much to offer. Even the best of us lose an election or two.

  2. truss says:

    One last RINO to trash Bachmann for his own benefit. Maybe now, he’ll admit she is qualified and would make a very good President!!!

    1. How you figure? says:

      @ truss
      Just because MB is still in the race and TPaw is not how does that mean she is “qualified” all of the sudden? Just like any other time, you take different kinds of trash out on different days. Her day is coming and she will be out of the race just the same.

    2. Tom says:

      @ truss

      She is neither qualified or make a good president! Are you basing your statement on the fact that she is not talking to REAL people yet and is only talking to people are nuts, delusional and don’t live in reality? I would say your answer is yes!

    3. djp says:

      OH PULEEEEZE. She would put this nation BACK, not FORWARD!!! I heard that at one of the parties after she won election she came out with an evening dress and crown on…waving like she was the queen!!! Is THIS what we need??

  3. i'm just sayin says:

    There is some more of that Minnesota nice for you. Way to go “O”, way to show the rest of the world how big and nice of a person you are.

    1. schizophrenic psycho says:

      That’s what happens when the little boy cries wolf.

      1. Psychotic Schizo says:

        How do you know “O” is a boy? Even if he IS a boy, he’s probably not much of a boy.

  4. jimmy says:


  5. the crux of the buscuit says:

    Now Tim can get a high paying job in the health insurance industry denying people their coverage.

  6. TinyTim says:

    Awe I feel so bad for him, he abandons Minnesota during his time as governor, and this is what happens you can’t even beat out a clueless stump like Bachmann, the joke’s on whoever contributed to his campaign, how on earth could you think he had a prayer.

    1. Tom says:

      @ TinyTim

      That is very true and all his MN followers defended him , but this morning they are all grabbing for the kleenex boxes. And I would bet that the reason they said have been saying to him isn’t because he wasn’t nuts enough, but because he left the state of MN in financial ruins.

  7. Iconoclast says:

    So he’s out with a pathetic little whimper. I’ve been saying this for a year. He was a sleazy, lying , failure as a governor and he never had what It took to run nationally. He could have saved a lot of money and effort If he’d just asked me. Hopefully we’ll never have to hear from him again. Good luck to Ms. Bachman, nothing would make me happier than to see her win the nomination. Seriously, that would be so awesome. LOL.

  8. Kevin says:

    I think its good for him to experience dissapointment. Now he actually knows what its like for average people to be turned down for a job. This might make him a bit more humble, and perhaps in the future a better candidate.

    1. Iconoclast says:

      “I think its good for him to experience dissapointment. Now he actually knows what its like for average people to be turned down for a job. ”


      How so exactly, Kevin??

  9. About time says:

    Stay in Iowa. We the people of Minnesota don’t want you here

  10. What a joke says:

    He is under some disillusion thinking he would make a good president.

  11. Matt says:

    He did something right for Minnesota for once

  12. Saywhat? says:

    What fantastic news! Happy Sunday everyone.

  13. The Jig Is Up says:

    All that money wasted, on a campaign that was known to be doomed from the start.

    1. Iconoclast says:

      It wasn’t your money, so why do you care?

  14. Missy says:

    Glad to hear he has finally given up. He was one of many GOP governors that tanked this state. It will take years to clear up their messes! Imagine what he would have done to this country?

  15. MrB says:

    One knocklehead down, one more to go!

  16. Murph says:

    Thank God and Greyhound he’s gone! Now let’s see how long Bachmann goes before her insanity is just too much for even a fascist GOP’er to swallow!

  17. James2 says:

    Great! Still a list of nutjobs left to go. But wait, let’s hope Michelle Buttman stays in long enough to lose her chance for Congress although we already know that won’t happen. Too bad we will still have to deal with her.

  18. The GUY says:

    Bachmann is a ignorant psycho hose beast. Pawlenty is bad enough and I’m glad he’s gone, but when Bachmann is out I will have a party.

  19. Just me says:

    Worst governor in the history of Minnesota.

  20. Happy Sunday says:

    He is the only one thinking he did a great great great job as Governor in Minnesota. And again the only one who thinks he would make a good President. Sorry Timmy Boy, Your a loser.

  21. Jack says:

    You have to give Pawlenty credit for something MANY other candidates won’t do. He realized his position and, instead of wasting time and money, he’s dropping out. That’s respectable, unlike many other candidates.

  22. jordanj says:

    He’s had a cash cow in Government for 18 years, which I believe is the biggest entitlement ever. What will he do now?

  23. Bachmann? says:

    In your guts,
    you know she’s nuts.

  24. John says:

    One MN nut gone…one to go!

  25. Take out the rest of the trash in 2012 says:

    Perry and Rubio in 2012, Rubio in 2016

    1. Glenn Taylor says:

      Ricky Rubio?

      1. K McHale says:

        Yes, Ricky. Problem is, he wants to be President of Spain for a while, first.

  26. Tom L says:

    now if the other republican dreamers would follow suit….all will be right with the country…

  27. M,J, says:

    What a shame! Minnesota Manure Mouth slips and falls on an Iowa cow pie and is out of the running.

  28. Shane says:

    We must have Michelle Bachmann or Ron Paul as the GOP Presidential candidate next year. I will not accept anyone else. Perry, Romney, Gingrich, and the rest are not conservatives. They are frauds.

    1. Iconoclast says:

      Michele Bachmann isn’t a fraud??


      Ok!! 😀

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