Nightly News | August 14, 2011
LESTER HOLT, anchor: The last 24 hours have brought some big changes to the field of Republican presidential challengers, including the campaign season's first casualty as ex- Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty exits the race following a poor showing in yesterday's Iowa 's straw poll . Fellow Minnesotan , Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann has now cemented her place among the top tier of contenders while also being forced to contend with a newcomer. NBC 's Kelly O'Donnell reports from Des Moines .
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KELLY O'DONNELL reporting: For Governor Tim Pawlenty it's over after a disappointing third place at the Ames straw poll .
Governor TIM PAWLENTY: I wish it would have been different, but obviously the pathway forward for me doesn't really exist and so we're going to end the campaign.
O'DONNELL: Beginning his own White House run, Texas Governor Rick Perry phoned Pawlenty .
Governor RICK PERRY: I told him, I said, ' Dadgummit ,' I said, 'I was looking forward to getting out there and jousting with you.' He said, 'Yeah, and I would have kicked your tail, too.' Howdy, like your shirt.
O'DONNELL: The 61-year-old former Air Force pilot is the longest serving governor Texas has ever had. A Christian conservative who often speaks of faith in public.
Gov. PERRY: I'm going to bless the meal real quick, all right. Does that suit you all? OK. Father, thank you for the day and we thank you for all your blessings, and bless this food to nourish our bodies. We ask this all in your name and ask for wisdom and grace in this country. Amen. All right!
O'DONNELL: Perry 's campaign bus arrived in Iowa before he did. Tonight he kicks off a three-day Iowa tour, speaking in Michele Bachmann 's childhood hometown, Waterloo . Both Pawlenty 's exit and Perry 's launch consumed political oxygen that typically would have gone to the straw poll 's actual winner, Congresswoman Bachmann , who appeared on all five Sunday morning talk shows , including " Meet the Press ."
Representative MICHELE BACHMANN: I'm grateful that we won the straw poll , but we see this as just the very first step in a very long race.
O'DONNELL: A close second in the straw poll Texas Congressman Ron Paul , who claims grassroots strength. Paul and national front-runner Mitt Romney did not hold events today. Bachmann and Perry will both speak at the same Republican dinner tonight. Bachmann told David Gregory she welcomes the competition.
Rep. BACHMANN: He'll run his campaign. We'll run ours. But we really look forward to that. And what I'm really looking forward to more than anything is taking on Barack Obama as the Republican nominee.
O'DONNELL: And all the other campaigns are now anxious to get Tim Pawlenty 's donors, supporters, volunteers and even staff. And there'll be a must-do tradition tomorrow right here at the Iowa State Fair , Lester , when Governor Rick Perry gets his first taste of this place as a candidate. Lester :