Tim Pawlenty on the Death of the Iowa Straw Poll: 'Good Riddance'

The former Minnesota governor and GOP presidential candidate is shedding no tears.

A supporter of former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty buys a button from a vendor outside the Stephens Auditorium at Iowa State University, the site of the Republican party debate August 11, 2011 in Ames, Iowa. (National Journal)

In the summer of 2011, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was running for president, but his campaign was running out of money. He thought if he could just make it to the Iowa Straw Poll, and put up a good showing there, that might sustain his campaign a few more months.

"Our theory was we needed to make a mark early if we were going to be able to get some attention and be able to stay in his wake as the credible alternative to [Mitt Romney]," Pawlenty told National Journal on Friday. "And it was the wrong theory."

Pawlenty ended up placing third in the poll—behind Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul—and ditched his campaign the very next day, having accumulated more than $400,000 in debt.

So when news broke Friday that the Iowa Republican Party was canceling the straw poll, Pawlenty welcomed its death knell.

"My general reaction is, good riddance," Pawlenty said. "It's an event that long ago outlived its usefulness, and history shows it wasn't a good predictor of anything, including the Iowa caucus results and the eventual nominee."

Pawlenty said he hopes the elimination of the straw poll leads to more substantive reporting on the 2016 presidential race and less "horse-race" coverage than last cycle.

"You're eliminating one of the non-meaningful, shiny objects that go to the issue of horse-racing rather than what the candidates stand for," he said. "It's probably a good development."

But with such a large GOP field, do long-shot candidates (such as Bachmann in 2012) have one less opportunity to make a name for themselves? Pawlenty took the opposite view. He says that, without the straw poll, second- and third-tier candidates will be under less pressure to perform early in the primary process.

"It allows lesser-known candidates more time to get their footing, get some traction, and build up toward the caucuses," Pawlenty said. "There's lots of new developments that are making a lot of the old protocols and approaches irrelevant. Super PACs, for example: One person now can sustain an entire campaign effort indirectly. If you've got the right billionaire supporting you, you've got yourself a campaign."