BY MICHAEL BOWMAN – The list of Republican candidates vying to challenge President Barack Obama in next year’s election has shrunk by one. A former state governor, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, has dropped out of the race.
Tim Pawlenty says he had hoped to boost his campaign with a strong showing in Saturday’s non-binding test vote in Iowa, which will hold the nation’s first party caucuses to start the 2012 presidential election cycle.
“We [my campaign] needed to get some lift to continue on and to have a pathway forward. That did not happen, so we are going to end the campaign,” he said.
Pawlenty spoke on ABC’s This Week television program. He placed a distant third in the Iowa straw poll behind a fellow-Minnesotan, Representative Michele Bachmann, and Congressman Ron Paul of Texas.
Pawlenty said his record as a two-term governor in a Democratically-leaning state “was not sufficient” to excite Republican voters and attract large financial contributions to his campaign. He congratulated Bachmann and Paul for their strong showings in Iowa.
“Congratulations to them. But this is a long journey,” he said. “The [Republican] Party is going to be discussing more broadly who they want for their candidate, not just in Iowa but in other places around the country. So we do not know what this [nomination race] will ultimately look like.”
Two Republican hopefuls with strong name recognition received votes, but did not actively compete in the Iowa straw poll: former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Texas Governor Rick Perry. Perry formally entered the race Saturday.
The straw poll winner, Michele Bachmann, has substantial backing from social conservatives as well as the virulently anti-tax, anti-spend Tea Party faction of the Republican Party. Bachmann was one of several Republican lawmakers who voted against raising the U.S. debt ceiling earlier this month as the United States teetered on the edge of a potential default.
Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Bachmann was asked if she bears some responsibility for the recent downgrade of U.S. credit worthiness, which Standard & Poor’s blamed in large part on chronic political intransigence in Washington.
She said it is spendthrift Democrats, not Republicans, who bear responsibility for America’s financial woes.
“You cannot spend money you do not have. We have to start paying our bills. That is what Standard & Poor’s is telling us,” she said.
President Obama faces no Democratic Party challengers for his nomination to a second term. Although polls show more Americans disapprove of his job performance than approve of it, such numbers are not uncommon for an incumbent president one year before a reelection bid.