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Daon Davis/State Capitol Bureau Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty saw the exit sign Sunday and dropped out of the presidential race. Here, he talks to Iowans last month in an effort to win a straw poll, a poll that U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota won Saturday.

Out of the 2012 race

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Out of the 2012 race
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ST. PAUL -- Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty ended his White House dream Sunday after a third-place finish in an Iowa straw poll.

Pawlenty said he would not continue his campaign, telling ABC's "This Week" that "I wish it would have been different, but the pathway forward doesn't exist for me."

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He probably can blame a fellow Minnesotan for leaving the race.

U.S. Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota won the poll, far ahead of Pawlenty. Their battle had been the feature story in the run-up to the poll, including fierce exchanges during a Thursday night debate.

"The audience, so to speak, was looking for something different," Pawlenty said.

Before announcing that he would not continue his campaign, he rattled off many of the campaign lines and reasons repeated across Iowa about why he should be elected. "Obviously that message did not get the traction or the lift" needed to reach the White House, Pawlenty said.

Pawlenty, a former Eagan City Council member and state House majority leader, hinted he may not be done with national campaigns."Obviously, that pathway, for now, isn't there."

But he did rule himself out of being anyone's vice presidential candidate. "I've been down that road before. That's not something I will even consider."

He said he does not know what he will do next, but said he was not in the race for himself.

"I'm doing this because I love this country and want to defeat Barack Obama," Pawlenty said, adding that he does not get his personal identity from politics.

After Pawlenty's announcement, Bachmann wished Pawlenty well.

"I have a lot of respect for the governor," she added.

Bachmann and Ron Paul of Texas each received twice as many votes as Pawlenty in Saturday's Ames, Iowa, Republican straw poll. While the poll was not binding, it gave presidential hopefuls an indication of what Iowa Republican activists think of their candidacies and how well presidential hopefuls have organized their campaigns.

Bachmann received 28.6 percent of the Ames votes, followed by Paul's 27.7 percent. Pawlenty recorded 13.6 percent.

Besides Bachmann, Pawlenty faced a problem with Texas Gov. Rich Perry's entrance into the race on Saturday. Pawlenty's theme of "results, not rhetoric" featured his experience as governor. With Perry, strong among Republicans, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the national GOP frontrunner, Pawlenty faced experienced opponents.

Much of Pawlenty's criticism of Bachmann was that she has no experience governing. Their heated exchanges highlighted the nationally televised Thursday night GOP debate.

But showing emotion came too late for Pawlenty to gain passionate supporters. He is seen by most observers as boring.

From the beginning of her campaign a couple of months ago, Iowa native Bachmann received emotional support from many Iowa Republicans. Her conservative Tea Party background is more in tune with GOP activists than Pawlenty, who to many people is more of a moderate.

Pawlenty tied his experience to what he called his electability while campaigning around Iowa. He said the Republican presidential candidate needs to be someone who appeals to a broad part of the electorate, indicating that candidates such as Bachmann cannot do that.

Before the poll, Pawlenty said he needed to move from the rear of the pack to near the front. Many pundits thought his third-placing showing would be good enough to keep him in the race.

Many Minnesotans traveled to Ames to help Pawlenty in the straw poll, including a former aide to the governor, Brian McClung. After news broke about Pawlenty's departure, McClung tweeted that "it was an honor to serve" him and said said his former boss is a great leader and person.

There was no indication before the Ames poll that Pawlenty, 50, was thinking about leaving the race.

In fact, after the straw poll's results were announced Saturday night, Pawlenty released a statement indicating he would keep going: "Congratulations to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann for her victory in today's straw poll. We made progress in moving from the back of the pack into a competitive position for the caucuses, but we have a lot more work to do. This is a long process to restore America -- we are just beginning and I'm looking forward to a great campaign."

Minutes after The Associated Press' Brian Bakst broke the Pawlenty story, speculation began about whether he would challenge U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., next year. Last week he said he was not interested in that race.

Minnesota political observers also began to speculate whether Pawlenty could take on U.S. Sen. Al Franken in 2014.

Pawlenty long has had his eye on Washington.

He planned to challenge then-U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone in 2002. However, he stepped aside for fellow Republican Norm Coleman at the request of the George W. Bush White House and Pawlenty ran for governor.

In 2008, he finished second to Sarah Palin as Sen. John McCain's running mate on the Republican national ticket.

Right after the 2008 election, Pawlenty appeared to have set his sights on the White House and in late 2009 delivered a Des Moines, Iowa, speech in anticipation of the 2012 first-in-the-country presidential Hawkeye state caucuses.

Pawlenty put everything he had into the Iowa campaign, visiting hundreds of communities before the Ames poll, more than any other candidate.

Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Daily Globe.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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