Pro-Life Gov. Tim Pawlenty Leaves Republican Presidential Race

Politics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 14, 2011   |   11:23AM   |   Washington, DC

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has become the first casualty of the Republican primary election campaign — deciding to drop out after a third place finish in the Iowa Straw Poll.

“I wish it would have been different, but obviously the pathway forward for me doesn’t exist so we are going to end the campaign,” Pawlenty said after huddling with top advisers Sunday morning following the event in the first primary battleground state.

Pawlenty officials indicated the governor was not willing to risk plunging the campaign into debt merely to soldier on in a race that, from all appearances, would not likely result in victory.

The candidate told ABC News he would endorse a fellow Republican “eventually” and that he wasn’t interested in a Vice-Presidential slot at this time:  “I’ve been down that road before. That’s not something I’m even going to consider.”

Governor Pawlenty excited pro-life advocates early on in the campaign who appreciated his extensive pro-life record as the governor of Minnesota — combined with his experience as governor and a former state legislator, his knowledge of public policy issues and a conservative platform on fiscal and foreign policy issues.

However, Pawlenty was never able to meet the high expectations Republicans and members of the mainstream media and conservative blogosphere placed on his campaign. Despite a polished campaign led by seasoned Republican campaign executives, Pawlenty had trouble capturing the buzz and pizzazz other candidates like Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and, now Rick Perry, brought to the table.

Pawlenty fell victim to the campaign theme that has developed over the last few years and, partly, contributed to Barack Obama’s election as president. Voters are looking for candidates that excite them and spark something inside them rather than statesmen with leadership and executive experience. Despite the extensive conservative and pro-life policy accomplishments, his vast knowledge of the issues, and the steady, methodical leadership he promised for the nation as a candidate, Pawlenty was simply unable to connect with the sizable percentage of Tea Party Republicans looking for more spark and excitement.

With Pawlenty out of the race, many of his former supporters and backers have informed LifeNews that they are taking a serious look at Texas Gov. Rick Perry. For them, Perry brings what Pawlenty brought to the table in terms of leadership and experience, an extensive pro-life record, and solid conservative principles, but he also has the charm and fire from the stage and a larger than life persona that Pawlenty may have lacked for many GOP voters.

However, the Republican campaign still includes several pro-life candidates — including Bachmann, Cain, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Thad McCotter, and Mitt Romney is running as a pro-life candidate after having been supportive of abortion.

Pawlenty pressed pro-life themes frequently — as late as the Thursday Republican presidential debate.

The former Minnesota governor didn’t have much support for abortions in cases of rape or incest, saying he would prefer only to support the life of the mother exception for extremely rare cases when a pregnancy would threaten her life. Pawlenty said he would prefer to stop abortions in all other cases, but could live with stopping 98% of all abortions if that was the best standard legislation could achieve.

“In terms of my personal views, the only exception I can really reconcile or justify is the life of the mother. And I would sign that bill if it came in that form as president or as governor,” he said. “But if another bill came with other exceptions that substantially advanced the pro-life cause I’d sign that bill too because I want to make progress to limit and ultimately end abortions in this country and I want to move the pro-life cause forward and I have. That’s why that publication said that perhaps I’m the most pro-life person on this stage, based on results, not just rhetoric.”

Byron York, the panelist, then asked Pawlenty a followup:  “Do you support criminal charges for doctors who perform abortions?”

“I think there should be absolutely consequences for doctors who perform abortions if it’s illegal and when it is illegal and the possibility of criminal sanctions or severe civil sanctions. I don’t think the woman involved should be criminally sanctioned,” Pawlenty said.