U.S. Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty speaks beside Michele Bachmann during the Republican presidential debate in Ames
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty (R) speaks beside Michele Bachmann during the Republican presidential debate in Ames, Iowa August 11, 2011. REUTERS

One day after Texas Governor Rick Perry formally entered the race for the GOP presidential nomination, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty said he's officially out.

Pawlenty told supporters via a conference call Sunday he's ending his campaign for the GOP nomination, before publicly announcing his decision on ABC's "This Week."

Pawlenty finished a distant third in Saturday's Iowa presidential straw poll, far behind the winner, Rep. Michele Bachmann, also of Minnesota. Republican Ron Paul finished second.

With Bachmann's Iowa straw poll win and the attention focused on Perry with polls showing the new GOP-entry as formidable from the start, Pawlenty felt it was time to withdraw.

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

Pawlenty said on the program his campaign message "didn't get the kind of traction or lift that we needed and hoped for coming into the and out of the Ames straw poll.

"Obviously, we had some success raising money, but we needed to continue that, and Ames was a benchmark for that. And if we didn't do well in Ames, we weren't going to have the fuel to keep the car going down the road," he added.

Pawlenty's early departure from the GOP presidential nomination race was a surprise to many. The former Minnesota governor was on John McCain's short list of vice presidential picks in 2008 before then-Alaska governor Sarah Palin was selected, and he was viewed by many observers as a legitimate contender for the GOP presidential nomination.

But Bachmann, also a Republican and a Tea Party member, held advantage in Minnesota, the home state she shares with Pawlenty, and her easy Iowa straw poll win was a clear signal. Also, Perry, the Texas governor who officially entered the GOP presidential nomination race on Saturday, poses strength in southern states, while also faring well with evangelicals and pro-business conservatives.

Pawlenty was positioned as a possible alternative to GOP front-runner Mitt Romney. But despite spending months campaigning and organizing in Iowa, he never caught momentum in the Hawkeye State or nationally, trending in single digits in polls.

Politico first reported that Pawlenty would drop out of the race, but the candidate ended all speculation Sunday by officially dropping out with confirmation on the ABC program Sunday.

Pawlenty had pushed his record as a two-term governor in a Democratic state, as a contrast to Bachmann and her three terms in Congress, but he never connected with one large, passionate GOP group to build momentum.

The Iowa straw poll is not typically seen as a reliable indicator of who will win the state's presidential caucuses or GOP nomination, but it is an early test of trending strength and campaign organization. Candidates look to build momentum in the straw poll, and Pawlenty's showing was flat.

Bachmann emerged as the GOP's straw poll winner Saturday, but her campaign momentum ran into a bit of a wall over the weekend with Perry's announcement, made on the same day of her Iowa victory. One week after organizing and appearing at The Response, a prayer rally in Houston where he prayed for the nation and President Barack Obama, Perry officially announced that he's running for President of the United States.

Perry blamed the recent U.S. debt rating downgrade on Obama, in making his official announcement Saturday in South Carolina, and he blamed Obama for the federal budget deficit. Perry promised to make government small, if not inconsequential to Americans.

Both Perry and Bachmann appeal to social conservatives and the Tea Party movement, and both are considered politically to the right of Romney.