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Tim Pawlenty drops out of presidential race

Tim Pawlenty, Iowa
Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty speaks during a town hall meeting Monday, May 23, 2011, at the State of Iowa Historical Building in Des Moines, Iowa. AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Updated: 12:45 a.m. ET

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is dropping out of the presidential race, he announced on Sunday.

In an appearance on ABC's "The Week," Pawlenty said he would be withdrawing from the race for the Republican presidential nomination after a disappointing third place finish at Saturday's straw poll in Ames, Iowa.

"We needed to get some lift to continue on to have a pathway forward," he told ABC's Jake Tapper. "That didn't happen. So I'm announcing this morning on your show that I'm going to be ending my campaign for president."

"I wish it would have been different," he continued. "But the pathway forward for me doesn't really exist."

Pawlenty finished with 13.57  percent of the total ballots cast in Saturday's closely-watched straw poll contest. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who won the contest, earned 28.55 percent and Rep. Ron Paul, who finished a close second, won 27.65 percent of the votes.

The straw poll was a crucial test for Pawlenty, who was initially expected to be a strong challenger to putative Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney. But his campaign failed to catch fire, with polls indicating that his support never moved out of the single digits.

Pawlenty said that the Iowa straw poll had been a crucial "benchmark" for his campaign -- and that, barring a strong performance in it, the campaign would inevitably lack "the fuel to keep the car going."

"We had some success raising money," Pawlenty noted, but added that "we needed to continue that and Ames was a benchmark for that. If we didn't do well, we won't have the fuel to keep the car going down the road."

Nevertheless, the former governor indicated on Saturday night that he would be staying in the race despite his third-place finish.

"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," he said in a statement.

On Sunday, however, he changed course.

"I thought I would have made a great president, but obviously that pathway isn't there," he said. "I do believe we're going to have a very good candidate who is going to beat Barack Obama."

Bachmann, who repeatedly sparred with Pawlenty in Thursday night's GOP debate, praised her fellow Minnesotan for his service and commitment in a Sunday morning statement following Pawlenty's announcement to withdraw from the race.

"This morning I spoke with Governor Pawlenty to express my respect and admiration for him, and to wish him and his family well. Running for the presidency requires enormous self-sacrifice. Governor Pawlenty brought an important voice and ideas to the campaign, and he served the people of Minnesota and our country well. Our party and our country are better as a result of his service and commitment," she said.

Leading GOP candidate Mitt Romney, also in a statement, called Pawlenty's campaign "honorable."

"Tim Pawlenty and his entire team ran an honorable campaign," Romney said. "I admire his accomplishments as a two term Governor with a record of results for his state. I consider him a friend and I know he has a bright future ahead of him as a leader in the Republican Party."

Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, meanwhile, added that the former Minn. governor should be "proud" of the campaign he ran.

"Tim Pawlenty is an accomplished Governor, a proud conservative, and someone of tremendous character," he said in a Sunday statement. "Tim should be proud that he brought to this race ambitious solutions to turn around our nation's economy and to tackle debt and spending. I hope that all of his supporters continue to stay engaged in this defining election and work with us to ensure that our party wins in November."

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