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GOP 2012 candidates react to Pawlenty’s exit

Several 2012 GOP candidates have released official statements following this morning’s announcement by former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty that his campaign would be ending on its third place finish at the Ames Straw Poll.

“Tim Pawlenty and his entire team ran an honorable campaign,” said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. “I admire his accomplishments as a two-term governor with a record of results for his state. I consider him a friend and I know he has a bright future ahead of him as a leader in the Republican Party.”

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, a fellow Minnesota Republican, said, “This morning I spoke with Governor Pawlenty to express my respect and admiration for him, and to wish him and his family well. Running for the presidency requires enormous self-sacrifice. Governor Pawlenty brought an important voice and ideas to the campaign, and he served the people of Minnesota and our country well. Our party and our country are better as a result of his service and commitment.”

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who did not actively participate in the Ames Straw Poll, said the decision was Pawlenty’s to make and that he respects the decision. He also applauded the effort of Pawlenty’s staff and supporters, but had few nice things to say about Saturday’s straw poll.

“As Republicans survey a new list of candidates today, including the departure of a candidate who is credible, experienced and who has a real record to run on, it is appropriate to question the inflated role of an event like the Ames Straw Poll in the process. That a pay-to-play gathering in Iowa six months before the first real ballots are cast can be such a qualifying — or disqualifying — event is something the media and tens of millions of Republican voters need to think about. A lot of voices have not been heard yet, and it is far too early for the ‘system’ to be picking winners and losers,” Johnson said.

“If there is a message from Ames, it is that this race is wide open and that the vast majority of Republicans and Independents are still looking for the candidate who can win the White House in 2012.”

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said it has been “a great pleasure to get to know Tim, Mary and the entire Pawlenty family.

“Tim is a tremendous family man, and devoted to moving our nation in the right direction and away from the radical agenda advanced by President Obama. I have no doubt he will be an influential leader for the conservative movement in whatever capacity he decides for many years to come. And to Governor Pawlenty’s many supporters who were attracted to his common-sense conservative record of achievement, know that my campaign will also stand for leadership based on tried and true conservative principles,” said Santorum.

(Editor’s note: Added reaction from Santorum at 2:45 p.m.; will add others if/when they arrive.)

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