WASHINGTON — Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty announced on Sunday he is dropping out of the Republican presidential contest, after a distant third place finish in a key test vote.
Pawlenty made the announcement after finishing with 2,293 votes Saturday in Iowa’s Ames Straw Poll — seen as a key indicator of who will fare well in early nominating contests next year — over 2,500 votes behind winner Representative Michele Bachmann and second place finisher Ron Paul.
The Pawlenty campaign, officially launched in May, “didn’t get the kind of traction and lift we had hoped coming out of the straw poll,” he told ABC’s “This Week.”
“I’m announcing on your show that I am ending my campaign for the presidency.”
The low-key Pawlenty — derided by detractors as bland and uncharismatic — is little known outside of his home state. He had hoped to position himself as a fiscal conservative who will shake up Washington.
US media said Pawlenty, who had been considering a presidential run for years, had thanked his supporters in an early-morning call, saying he had decided to leave the 2012 race overnight. He has not indicated whether he might endorse another candidate.
Despite deploying resources and organizational strength in Iowa, the first state in the nation to vote on the nominating contests he had said he must win, Pawlenty failed to gain enough traction there and was overshadowed by Bachmann, a fellow Minnesotan and favorite of the ultraconservative Tea Party movement.
With big donors and bundlers likely throwing their resources behind Bachmann, an Iowa native, and Texas Governor Rick Perry, who launched his presidential campaign Saturday on strong social conservative credentials, Pawlenty acknowledged a “disappointing” short-lived run.
Bachmann won 4,823 votes, or around 28.5 percent of the 16,892 ballots cast in the unscientific and nonbinding poll in Iowa, outgunning the 4,671 votes or 27.6 percent of Tea Party “intellectual godfather” Ron Paul, and Pawlenty’s 13.6 percent.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, until now seen as the front-runner for the nomination, was seventh with just 567 votes, or almost 3.4 percent.
Without even taking part officially in the straw poll, Perry still managed to beat Romney, with 718 votes, or 3.6 percent, as a write-in candidate.
An evangelical Christian, Pawlenty was born to a Polish American and his German American mother in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He was trained as a labor lawyer before being elected governor. He and his wife have two daughters.