Pawlenty quits presidential race

Backers of former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s presidential campaign insisted all summer that he would stay in the race at least through the Iowa caucuses, but he gave up this morning.

Link:

“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” broadcast live from the campus of Iowa State University. […]

“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.”

Pawlenty didn’t raise a lot of money this year and spent a lot of his cash on hand on television advertising and organizing in Iowa before the Ames straw poll. Nevertheless, he finished a distant third behind Representatives Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, and not far ahead of former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. On Saturday evening Pawlenty signaled that he would fight on, but he changed his mind overnight. Pawlenty’s failure to gain a large following in Iowa, combined with yesterday’s campaign announcement by Texas Governor Rick Perry, made it all but impossible for Pawlenty to become the “not Mitt Romney” surging out of the Iowa caucuses.

Pawlenty’s departure frees up a lot of influential Iowa Republicans to find a candidate with a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. Former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker, a lawyer in private practice in Des Moines, was Pawlenty’s Iowa campaign chairman. Co-chairs of the presidential campaign were former State Representative and Iowa GOP co-chair Jim Kurtenbach, former gubernatorial candidate Christian Fong, and Ames-based businessman Roger Underwood. UPDATE: Forgot to mention Richard Johnson, who became another Pawlenty Iowa co-chair in June. Johnson served as state auditor during the 1980s and 1990s and co-chaired Bob Vander Plaats’ 2010 gubernatorial campaign, as well as John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign in Iowa.

Ten Iowa legislators had joined a steering committee to support Pawlenty: Senators Randy Feenstra (district 2), Rob Bacon (district 5) and Shawn Hamerlinck (district 42), and State Representatives Chip Baltimore (district 48), Joel Fry (district 95), Erik Helland (district 69), Chris Hagenow (district 59), Steve Lukan (district 32), Linda Miller (district 82) and Matt Windschitl (district 56).

I’m curious to see who will be the next candidate to directly criticize Bachmann. Pawlenty and his supporters had questioned her competence and her legislative record. Pawlenty and Bachmann mixed it up during Thursday’s televised debate. Will Perry become the next person to engage with Bachmann on the issues, or with a “results not rhetoric” message? Or will rivals push back against Bachmann through blind quotes and hit jobs like last month’s media frenzy over migraine headaches?

Any comments about the Republican presidential race are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Not running for a third term as governor of Minnesota has to be a huge regret for Pawlenty. Democrat Mark Dayton won the three-way open gubernatorial race by whisker, but Pawlenty would presumably have had a good chance of beating him, given the Republican skew of the electorate last November. Instead of being a failed presidential candidate with nothing to do, Pawlenty would be a governor with a GOP-controlled legislature for the first time.

SECOND UPDATE: Agree 100 percent with ragbrai08: “T-paw will always be remembered as Bachmann’s roadkill.” I would add that State Senators Kent Sorenson and Brad Zaun, who jumped on the Bachmann bandwagon early, may not be the brightest bulbs in the Iowa GOP, but they look smarter today than the insiders who believed Pawlenty could become a convincing not-Romney.

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