Following a strong day at the podium and with the crowds in Ames, the presidential campaign for former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is in flux, moving quickly to respond to a disappointing third place finish in Saturday's straw poll.
After spending a year of time and more than $1 million in Iowa so far, Pawlenty pulled in 2,293 votes at the Iowa Straw Poll, well behind Ron Paul's 4,671 and Michele Bachmann's 4,823.
With national frontrunner Mitt Romney skipping the poll and formidable Texas Governor Rick Perry only just announcing his candidacy Saturday in South Carolina, the Pawlenty campaign has focused on success in Iowa as a means for establishing the former governor among the top 2012 GOP contenders.
POLITICO's Jonathan Martin reports that Pawlenty is set to meet early tomorrow morning with top campaign staff and donors to discuss the next move , "low on cash and reeling from a distant third-place finish at Ames,"
"Pawlenty and his senior aides signaled Friday that they'd retrench but stay in if he didn't do well at the straw poll. But with Rick Perry in the race and little money in the bank, the former Minnesota governor is facing a difficult decision."
Pawlenty has emphasized his conservative record as Governor in a Blue State, accompanied with his strong criticism of the policies of Barack Obama throughout the campaign. Pawlenty ripped on the President as being "like a manure spreader in a windstorm," drawing loud cheers from a crowd of GOP activists in Ames at about (1:50) of his straw poll speech:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/v/fyuSdeIYwpM?version=3&hl=en_US expand=1]
The former governor demanded that Republican candidates have to show that they can back up their words with actions. Speaking this afternoon as straw poll votes were simultaneously coming in, Pawlenty pointed to his record as a conservative governor in a strongly Democratic state, which he says speaks for itself. He noted that his performance in Minnesota, is evidence that he can take conservative policies nationwide.
The power of his campaign pitch in a general election is yet to be seen, but Pawlenty's performance in the non-binding Iowa contest seems troubling to many commentators analyzing his campaign.
Toby Harnden of the Telegraph gives a grim picture of what the third place finish means for Pawlenty:
"Tim Pawlenty’s campaign is now likely to die a slow death, with fundraising dropping off and recriminations beginning. Pawlenty has been very unlucky in some ways but the fact that he ran a good, well-disciplined Ames straw poll campaign makes things even worse for him now."
Following the announcement of Bachmann's straw poll victory, the campaign tried to stay positive releasing a statement which read:
“Congratulations to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann for her victory in today's straw poll,” he said. “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.”
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucus in 2008 after finishing second in Ames, has encouraged Pawlenty to stay positive. Huckabee told CNN Saturday night.
“'It’s a long process where we are months away from the caucuses,' Huckabee said. 'So what you don’t want to do is to have people who drop out and then find out that maybe a candidate stumbles all over himself, and the field in front of him is clear.'”
Since first held in 1979, George W. Bush is the only candidate to have won the Ames Iowa Straw Poll, Iowa Caucus, GOP nomination, and presidency in the same election. Bob Dole is the only other Republican to have won both the Straw Poll and Iowa Caucus in the same election.
Pawlenty is scheduled to appear tomorrow morning on ABC's "This Week."
The Associated Press contributed to this article.