He finished a distant third in the straw poll yesterday, but many observers believed it was probably good enough for him to continue.
Looking at the results in the cold light of day - and no doubt taking the pulse of his backers - Pawlenty realized that his chances to win had all but disappeared and it was time to make an exit:
Tim Pawlenty announced an end to his presidential candidacy Sunday after what he called a "disappointing" third place finish in the Ames, Iowa, straw poll.
The former Minnesota governor said he had hoped to get some lift from the preference poll that is an early indicator of a candidate's potential strength in the primary season.
"I'm ending my campaign for president," Pawlenty told ABC's "This Week," noting that he wished the scenario had been different but voters were looking for something else.
Pawlenty received 13 percent of the vote in the Saturday poll, which is not generally a marker of the future presidential nominee. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann received 28 percent of the nearly 17,000 votes cast followed by Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who earned 27 percent. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum earned 9 percent and businessman Herman Cain received 8 percent.
There was a time when Pawlenty was seen as the major alternative to Romney. But two lackluster debate performances and an inability to generate much enthusiasm for his candidacy in Iowa pretty much quashed that notion.
Rick Santorum is also mulling an exit and we may hear from him later today.