Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty withdrew from the race for the Republican nomination in the 2012 presidential race on Sunday after being bested by tea party-backed rival Michele Bachmann in an Iowa straw poll.


Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty spent months campaigning in the key state of Iowa. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

"I thought I would have made a great president, but obviously that pathway isn't there," Pawlenty said during an interview Sunday on ABC's This Week. "I do believe we're going to have a very good candidate who is going to beat Barack Obama."

Pawlenty's withdrawal marks the first departure of a crowded field of top-tier Republican candidates  vying to evict Obama — a Democrat —from the White House next year, including Bachmann, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Popular conservative Texas Governor Rick Perry, also beloved by the grassroots tea party movement, joined the contest on Saturday by declaring he "full well" believes he will win the race and defeat Obama.

Pawlenty was on the vice-presidential short list for John McCain's failed 2008 Republican campaign and spent months working the ground in Iowa, only to come in a distant third place in the Ames straw poll behind Bachmann and second-place finisher, firebrand libertarian Texas congressman Ron Paul.

While campaigning, Pawlenty blasted Obama over his health-care law and the administration's overall foreign policy, especially on Libya.