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Posted by on Aug 14, 2011 in Breaking News, Politics | 17 comments

Tim Pawlenty Quits Republican Presidential Nomination Race After Poor Iowa Straw Poll Showing

Well, that didn’t take long: former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who had been involved in an increasingly feisty competition with Rep. Michele Bachmann for some of the same chunk of voters in the ongoing race for the 2012 Republican nomination is out — a day after making a poor showing in Iowa’s Ames straw poll.

Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, dropped his bid for the Republican nomination for president on Sunday morning, saying his disappointing performance in Iowa’s straw poll convinced him that his campaign had run its course.

Just hours after his third-place finish in Iowa, Mr. Pawlenty said on ABC’s “This Week” program that his message “didn’t get the kind of traction we needed and hoped for” in order to continue.

“There are a lot of other choices in the race,” he said. “The audience, so to speak, was looking for something different.”

Mr. Pawlenty informed his supporters on a conference call Sunday morning before his television appearance that he is ending his candidacy. He thanked his supporters in the call, two participants said, but acknowledged that he had decided overnight that his candidacy could not proceed.

Mr. Pawlenty, who had been weighing a presidential campaign for years, had developed a robust plan to win the Republican nomination. But his strategy did not take into account the rising popularity of a fellow Minnesotan, Representative Michele Bachmann, whose candidacy had overshadowed Mr. Pawlenty’s. He had staked his entire campaign around a strong finish at the Iowa straw poll, which he did not achieve.

Mrs. Bachmann won the poll, edging Representative Ron Paul of Texas. Mr. Pawlenty was a distant third.

It was a sudden end to the presidential candidacy of a former two-term governor, who had once talked about bypassing the straw poll. But a poor showing at a debate two months ago made him change his mind, associates said, and left him no choice but to throw everything into the straw poll.

Pawlenty had been one of those candidates who was highly touted by some pundits as someone with potential but once on the national stage fizzled.

Some pundits are now suggesting the same could happen with Texas Gov. Rick Perry — but they shouldn’t be on it: Perry has the swagger and self-assure plus the willingness to genuinely appeal to the Republican party’s far right that Pawlenty didn’t have.

With Pawlenty you couldn’t watch him and not think that he was mentally holding his nose as he campaigned; Perry has gusto.
Political Punch:

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 just over 600 votes.

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.

USA Today:

The surprise decision by Pawlenty, who made John McCain’s short list of vice presidential picks in 2008, was first reported by Politico.

He received 14% of the vote in the Iowa straw poll . Bachmann, a third-term lawmaker and founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, received nearly 29% to come in first. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, finished second with 28%.

Throughout the year, Pawlenty struggled to gain traction despite being widely touted as a possible alternative to Mitt Romney, the current front-runner for the GOP nomination.

Pawlenty spent months campaigning and building an organization in Iowa, home to the nation’s first presidential caucuses, but had trouble catching fire. He was polling in the single digits both in the Hawkeye State and nationally.

He had emphasized his record as a two-term governor in a Democratic state, as a contrast to Bachmann and her experience. Pawlenty also sought to contrast himself with Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, on the issue of health care, pointing out that he signed a market-based law in Minnesota. He had derided the law enacted under Romney as “Obamneycare.”

While the Iowa straw poll is not a reliable indicator of who will win the state’s presidential caucuses or the GOP nomination, it is a test of organization. This morning, Pawlenty conceded that a victory in the straw poll, held in Ames, would have helped him boost his standing with voters and, especially, fundraisers who are critical to national campaigns.

“Obviously, we had some success raising money, but we needed to continue that, and Ames was a benchmark for that. 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,” he said on ABC’s This Week.

The Politico:

Pawlenty meticulously prepared for the campaign, hiring a slew of consultants and visiting early states beginning soon after the 2008 race ended. But with little name recognition and a dry persona, he never caught on with GOP activists looking for a dynamic candidate to take on President Barack Obama.

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

The Minnesotan was unable to raise a significant amount of money and spent much of what he did bring in on TV and radio in the lead-up to Ames. Pawlenty had originally hoped to emerge as the chief alternative to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, but he found himself pinned down in Iowa over the past six weeks trying to fend off the surging Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.

Some GOP strategists said Pawlenty had blundered in raising the Ames stakes by engaging Bachmann here and diverting his focus away from Romney, the national frontrunner.

“It was quite a head scratcher,” said consultant Curt Anderson of Pawlenty’s approach to Bachmann. “He should have been engaging Romney. There was no chance of him getting anywhere attacking her. Even if it had worked, it would have failed, as he would have alienated her supporters. For them, an attack on her is an attack on them.”

Bottom line: Romney unscathed again.

Prediction: Romney will be scathed by Perry (and Perry by Romney). And Bachmann continues her ascent.

For instance, she is now making noises that you don’t hear from Tea Party members or those who are solid members of the country’s talk radio political culture: she actually told NBC’s David Gregory that ‘most Democrats are reasonable, fair-minded people.” She is clearly listening to her consultant Ed Rollins in trying to expand her constituency (unlike Sarah Palin).

Glenn Reynolds:

Pawlenty had woman trouble. He looked weak when Sarah Palin was being blood-libeled over Jared Loughner, which hurt him a lot, and his increasingly shrill attacks on Michele Bachmann didn’t score any points but made him look small. Furthermore, I think that after the McCain debacle, GOP primary voters will look askance at any candidate who seems too interested in harshly attacking fellow Republicans.

-American Power:

I’m not surprised. The GOP field is getting crowded with Rick Perry’s entry into the race, and as we saw from the debate the other night, Pawlenty was hoping for the knock out blow against Michele Bachmann and he failed miserably. She held her own and made Pawlenty look a Republican Mario Cuomo. Bachmann went on to win Iowa and that had to be like a right upper-cut landing on Pawlenty’s chin. He’s down.

-Daily Kos:

As you may remember, during Thursday’s debate, Pawlenty said this:

Now as to Congresswoman Bachmann’s record. Look, she has done wonderful things in her life, absolutely wonderful things, but it is an indisputable fact that in congress her record of accomplishment and results is nonexistent. That’s not going to be good enough for our candidate for president of the United States, that is not going to be good enough for the president of the United States to serve in that capacity.

And now, after taking a drubbing yesterday, what is he saying?

I think she’s qualified to be President.

So, if nothing else, Michele Bachmann just won the coveted “you’re qualified” endorsement from none other than Tim Pawlenty himself.

Legal Insurrection:

As I have made clear before, I liked Tim Pawlenty, and it is unfortunate he was unable to get traction.

Not sure who this helps the most. My guess is that the Pawlenty money-supporters will split between Perry and Romney.

Steve Benen:

When Jon Chait argued in the spring that Pawlenty should probably be considered the frontrunner, the case didn’t seem at all silly.

But the ensuing five months have been less-than kind to the former governor. Pawlenty struggled to raise money, saw his poll numbers evaporate, faltered in debate performances, ran on an electability platform that didn’t resonate, and found himself easily eclipsed by fellow Minnesotan Michele Bachmann, who proved far more effective in generating media attention and enthusiasm from right-wing activists.

The poor showing in Ames, coupled with Rick Perry’s entrance into the race, left Pawlenty with no realistic shot at the nomination. Rather than pursue a vanity exercise, he wisely chose to cut his losses.

It’s tempting to ask where Pawlenty’s support will go now that he’s left the race, but in truth, he had so little support, his departure won’t really affect the race in any meaningful way.

And with that, the graveyard of great-on-paper candidates — Bill Richardson, Phil Gramm, Bob Graham — gets another member.

PBS’s The Rundown:

Pawlenty has been traveling the country attempting to put together a network of donors and key early state supporters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina for the better part of the last two years. He was attempting to position himself as the clear alternative to frontrunner Mitt Romney, but the Tea Party energy driving the enthusiasm inside the base of the Republican Party appears to be seeking something other than “Minnesota Nice.”

With Pawlenty out of the race, Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry will begin what may prove to be a two-way battle in Iowa to become the alternative to Romney when they address the county Republican organization in Waterloo, Iowa, on Sunday evening..

Talking Points Memo:

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty could not survive a poor third-place showing in the Ames straw pool or the entry of Texas Gov. Rick Perry into the race — but if those were the immediate causes of his collapse, the root causes had been evident for quite some time: anemic fundraising, a weak campaigner, and a guy who couldn’t throw enough red meat to GOP primary voters.

Firedog Lake:

Pawlenty’s candidacy was very much predicated on winning Iowa, a neighboring state to Minnesota. He hoped the momentum from that early victory would slingshot into other states. He spent months in Iowa and put up the first TV ads of any candidate there. But he never gained traction, either there or nationally.

With Pawlenty’s exit and Rick Perry’s entrance, we can now see the Republican Presidential race come into focus. Basically, it’s a three-way fight between Bachmann, Mitt Romney and Perry. Romney finished in seventh place in the straw poll, behind Bachmann, Paul, Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain and Perry, who wasn’t even an official contestant. But Romney didn’t really compete in the straw poll, and he basically has conceded Iowa to the candidates who appeal to social issues to a greater degree. Bachmann has to be seen as the favorite now in Iowa, although Perry could compete there as well. Romney appears to have a lock on New Hampshire. Then there’s South Carolina. If Bachmann took Iowa and Perry South Carolina, with Romney doing well in the likely early state of Michigan and the Nevada caucus, you could see a three-person race that extends well past the winter.

Red State’s Moe Lane:

…with Pawlenty leaving we’re back down to three real candidates for the Republican nomination again (Bachmann, Perry, & Romney). All three benefit in the short term, obviously; in the long term this probably helps Romney most .

Unless the Bachmann campaign implodes, of course. Bachmann’s probably going to end up wishing that she was competing with Pawlenty for attention instead of Perry. And that confrontation won’t be helped by the fact that Pawlenty’s people are probably even now calling up Perry’s to find alternate employment (which they will get)…

Moe Lane

*On a personal note: speaking as a mild Pawlenty supporter Gov. Perry is probably going to be my replacement choice: he’s got a record of accomplishments, and they’re accomplishments that don’t make me wince. But the plural of anecdote is not data, so take that as you will.


A system in which a meaningless straw poll, co-won by two individuals who will never be president, can influence a supposedly top-tier candidate to turn tail and run is illustrative of just how messed up the nominating process is. This is yet another reason for Governor Palin to defy this broken system by throwing convention to the wind and doing things her own way.

Betsy Newmark:

Well, so much for the idea that the Ames straw poll is meaningless. Gov. Pawlenty is dropping out due to his third-place showing in the straw poll. It’s a strange, strange political system when a few thousands Iowans who pay to vote get to determine the main candidates for a party’s nomination.

Doug Mataconis:

As I’ve said here repeatedly, Iowa was a do-or-die state for Pawlenty, if he didn’t succeed there his campaign was never going to take off nationally. For a time, it seemed like T-Paw would be the candidate who would rise to challenge Romney, but he remained at single digits in the polls and was eclipsed, first by Herman Cain and then by fellow Minnesotan Michele Bachmann. Now, with Rick Perry in the race, the odds of Pawlenty ever becoming anything other than a minor candidate were likely pretty much dead. Moreover, Pawlenty was running a traditional campaign that depended heavily on fundraising and yesterday’s results likely sent a message to donors that they were backing the wrong horse.

A year from now, I am sure that we’ll hear Pawlenty mentioned as a possible Vice-Presidential running mate for the eventual nominee, just as he was on the short list back in 2008. Perhaps he would make a good running mate, but his performance over the past several months on the stump are likely to work against him, and his overall blandness is going to make any GOP nominee think twice about picking him. Nonetheless if the nominee is a Southerner (i.e., Perry), then picking someone from the Mid-West would make eminent sense, so perhaps he will be on a short list. However, I’m not sure what he’d bring to the ticket that Paul Ryan, Mitch Daniels, or John Kasich wouldn’t.

It kind of says something about the state of the GOP these days that a guy who served eight years as Governor and numerous years in the State Senate, including many years as Majority and/or Minority Leader, is tossed aside so casually while someone like Bachmann becomes a rising star, though.

Michelle Malkin:

CNN, Fox News and Reuters are reporting that Tim Pawlenty will drop out of the race. The “pundits” last night were saying his 3rd place finish should breathe enough life into his campaign to keep it afloat for a while longer, but I guess not.

LA Times:

Rep. Steve King, an influential religious conservative in Iowa, said Sunday that one of the reasons that Tim Pawlenty didn’t receive more support from voters in his state is because he’s part of an establishment wing of the party that is struggling in the wake of widespread discontent with Washington.

“I feel bad for [Pawlenty]. It has to be a kick in the stomach,” said King, who thought Michele Bachmann got the better of Pawlenty at Thursday’s debate. “He put in a good effort and had a good organization, but he just didn’t connect.”

Many of Pawlenty’s supporters, said King, who supported Mitt Romney in 2007, and both men seem to have trouble exciting the Iowa Republican base. Bachmann, on the other hand, generated excitement and “connected in a philosophical and emotional way.”

Jamie Dupree:

…Pawlenty had linked President Obama and GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney on the health care issue, labeling their plans as “Obamney Care.” It seemed like a line that could work against the former Massachusetts Governor.

But the next day at the debate in Manchester, Pawlenty was given the chance to attack Romney in person over health care reform – and Pawlenty flinched.

He didn’t just swing and miss on the opportunity to criticize Romney, as Pawlenty stood there like the house on the side of the road and watched the pitch go by.

I remember the feeling in the press room that night was that Pawlenty had made a major error, and in hindsight, it may really have been the beginning of the end.

Instead of Pawlenty leaving that June GOP debate with momentum, it was Michele Bachmann who suddenly emerged from the pack of Republican candidates.

It was obvious where Pawlenty stood in his own mind last week, as in the GOP debate in Iowa, Pawlenty went on the attack and tangled straight away with Bachmann, who seemed to come out of that scrap for the better.

And when Bachmann doubled Pawlenty’s vote total in the Iowa Straw Poll, the writing was on the wall for the former Minnesota Governor.

One former Governor out of the race, and one current Governor in, as now Rick Perry gets his chance to become the alternative to Mitt Romney.

-Des Moines Register:

In the old days of brokered conventions, Pawlenty might have won the big prize: acceptable to pretty much everyone in the party, offensive to few. He didn’t hurt himself enough to knock himself out of the VP mix. And in a nomination system where Powers That Be still exerted significant influence, he may have had a chance.

But in an atmosphere that values style over substance, and in a party that values gridlock over governing, he didn’t have a prayer. The debate scraps between Pawlenty and Bachmann just three days ago are a microcosm of his entire fate. Bachmann pointed to all the “fights” she’s fought — no debt ceiling this, no light bulb mandates that. Pawlenty noted she hadn’t actually WON any of these fights. The Republican Party responded with a collective “So what?”

In an earlier post, Andrew Sullivan wrote about Bachmann who he called “The Leader of the Opposition.” It puts Pawlenty’s withdrawal into perspective. Here are a few excerpts:

She is to the right what … well it’s hard to come up with a viable politician among the Democrats who can even begin to match her ideological extremism. Maybe if someone actually wanted fully socialized medicine on the British model, top tax rates at 98 percent, and affirmative action for gays in Hollywood. Ron Paul, meanwhile, the man who wants to abolish the Federal Reserve and end the neo-empire, comes a very close second. In other words, the Republican most forceful about non-interventionism in the debate crushed the candidate most enthusiastic about interventionism, Rick Santorum.

Pawlenty has proven he’s simply out of his depth here. He’s neither insane enough to capture the fevered soul of the current GOP; nor charismatic enough to win them over with star power. Bachmann has two out of two. Ron Paul is just, well, Ron Paul. T-Paw picked a fight with Bachmann here and she chewed him up and spat him out. Put a fork in his campaign.

By the way, I don’t buy the idea that Palin is now in deep trouble. Palin has a cult-following that will only chart a different course if Queen Esther instructs them to. Perry is the one now in trouble. He’s in trouble because however red the meat he wants to throw at the base, Bachmann’s is always redder. She is the rawest of the right, which means she can punch above her weight in these purity tests. A Perry-Palin debate match-up would flummox him, I think. And buttress her. He can’t out-macho here, risks seeming very good ol’ boy next to her, and got in late.

Ben Smith:

The move makes clear that Texas Gov. Rick Perry has fully seized the space Pawlenty sought to occupy, of the established conservative alternative. It also marks a failure of the Sam’s Club conservative brand Pawlenty sought, at times, to personify.

That notion of a populist conservatism with a blue-collar edge fit Pawlenty’s story, and his denunciations of the trifecta of Big Government, Big Labor and Big Business fit its populist model. But the idea was ultimately a solution for a party tacking to the center, and this is a moment dominated by the right. Pawlenty, sensing that, never fully adopted that populism — his denunciations of Big Business, for instance, didn’t have a real policy aspect to go with them. He used his blue-collar biography as an appealing detail but couldn’t connect it to a larger, different pitch.

Sam’s Club conservatism was floated by Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam when the Republican Party felt a need to reinvent itself. It seems to have lost out, in Pawlenty’s campaign and in the party, to the tea party grass roots, interested in rolling government back, not reshaping it.

Chris Cillizza has an extensive analysis that must be read in full. Here are a few excerpts.

Pawlenty’s demeanor — he was the definition of “Minnesota Nice” — didn’t fit with an electorate who wanted confrontation with President Obama at all costs. Pawlenty watched as Rep. Michele Bacmann soared past him in the race — channeling the anger of voters who saw compromise in any form as capitulation.

…..But, it wasn’t just that Pawlenty was running as a conciliator in a time of confrontation. It was that he never seemed to settle on exactly how he wanted to position himself in the race.

When it became clear that the “nice guy” persona wasn’t working, Pawlenty went tough — releasing a series of slickly-produced web videos that portrayed him as something close to a super hero come to save the country from President Obama.

In his final incarnation, Pawlenty tried to seize the “truth teller” spot in the race — coming out against ethanol subsididies during his announcement speech in Des Moines, for example…

….When he reported $4.2 million raised in the second quarter — less than one-fourth the total that Romney collected over the same period — the political buzzards began to circle.

Pawlenty retrenched, devoting all of his time and dwindling cash to the Straw Poll in hopes of wringing momentum from a win there. He also ramped up his attacks on Bachmann, painting her as some with rhetoric not backed up by results.

………..The strategy didn’t work. Bachmann’s rocket had already gained far too much altitude for Pawlenty to stop its progress. Pawlenty’s third place finish in the Straw Poll confirmed what many already suspected: his campaign just wasn’t catching on.

Assessing the impact of Pawlenty’s decision on the candidates that remain is difficult because, in truth, he had never made any significant dent in polling — either in Iowa or nationally.

At the most basic level, a Pawlenty-less field makes the Iowa caucuses a two-person race between Bachmann, who cemented her status as the frontrunner with her Straw Poll win, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who entered the race officially on Saturday and is set to stop in Waterloo, Iowa today.

There is a line of thinking that with Perry and Palin competing for the votes of social conservatives, Romney, who has been somewhat lukewarm about how much time and money he will spend in Iowa, might have an opening to unify establishment types behind him in the Hawkeye State. It remains to be seen whether the Romney team will adjust their strategy to take advantage of that opportunity — or if one really exists

Read it in full.