Opinion: Tim Pawlenty quits after third-place straw-poll finish


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You can argue the Ames Straw Poll is merely a beauty contest and doesn’t matter, but for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty -- like others before him -- it was enough to break his campaign’s back.

Pawlenty went on ABC News’ ‘This Week’ on Sunday and told correspondent Jake Tapper that he was ending his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination less than a full day after a disappointing third-place finish in the Ames Straw Poll. He came in well behind winner Rep. Michele Bachmann and close second-place finisher Rep. Ron Paul.


His name was in the mix early as a GOP presidential contender, and as a ‘two-term governor of a blue state,’ as he described himself to Tapper, he felt that track record of working across the aisle would be a plus.

But the quick rise of fellow Minnesota politician Bachmann, the continued presence of...

...former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and the entry into the race yesterday of Texas Gov. Rick Perry -- who finished above Romney in the poll, as a write-in candidate -- left Pawlenty with little prospect of raising the funds he needed to continue. One of the fatal wounds to Pawlenty’s campaign may have been self-inflicted.

At the GOP debate on Aug. 11 at Iowa State University -- in the same venue that would later house the straw poll -- Pawlenty went after Bachmann’s record and accomplishments on stage after Fox News anchor Chris Wallace asked, ‘Is she unqualified, or is she just leading you in the polls?’

That caused Bachmann to retaliate in an exchange that many felt ultimately favored Bachmann, who took the opportunity to burnish her image as a fighter on principle.

To Tapper, Pawlenty expressed gratitude to Iowa and his supporters, ‘I wish it would have been different, but obviously the pathway forward for me doesn’t really exist.’


While Pawlenty had some money and loyal support, it’s likely he saw Perry’s strong finish only hours after announcing his candidacy, and with only write-in votes, as an omen the Texan would loom large in the race. And that would make life difficult for those who don’t ‘have a big national financial nework, a political network,’ as Pawlenty said to Tapper.

Below the video find reaction from Bachmann, and also from Romney, a one-term governor of a blue state and the purported front-runner, who did not compete in Ames and finished well back in the pack (coming in with only a little more than a third of the votes of businessman Herman Cain) ...

Bachmann: ‘This morning I spoke with Gov. Pawlenty to express my respect and admiration for him, and to wish him and his family well. Running for president requires enormous self-sacrifice. Gov. Pawlenty brought an important voice and ideas to the campaign, and he served the people of Minnesota and our country well. Our party and our country are better as a result of his service and commitment.’

Romney: ‘Tim Pawlenty and his entire team ran an honorable campaign. I admire his accomplishment as a two-term governor with a record of results for his state. I consider him a friend, and I know he has a bright future ahead of him as a leader in the Republican Party.’

It’s likely Bachmann wants to heal the rift with Pawlenty and bring his supporters, especially Minnesotans, solidly into her camp. As for Romney, whose conservative credentials are often under question, the statement may be an olive branch extended in hopes of a future endorsement.

For Pawlenty, while his dreams of the White House in 2012 have been dashed, he still could have a future on the campaign trail for other candidates and possibly a cabinet post, ambassadorship or other role if President Obama is defeated.



Gov. Rick Perry text: ‘We cannot afford 4 more years of this’

Iowa GOP debate: No Palin or Perry, but plenty of verbal punches

Ames straw poll: Michele Bachmann beats Ron Paul ... by 152 votes

-- Kate O’Hare

Media critic Kate O’Hare is a regular Ticket contributor. She also blogs about TV at Hot Cuppa TV and is a frequent contributor at entertainment news site Zap2it. Also follow O’Hare on Twitter @KateOH.

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Photo/Video: Gov. Tim Pawlenty at the Iowa State Fair; Pawlenty on ABC News’ ‘This Week.’ Credits: Steve Pope /Getty Images (photo); ABC News (video)