Amid unimpressive straw-poll expectations, Pawlenty concedes he ‘may not have any choice’ but to scale back his campaign

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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As Republican presidential contender Tim Pawlenty and eight other GOP hopefuls prepare for Saturday’s Ames Straw Poll in Iowa, the former Minnesota Governor may be showing the first signs of pessimism. Asked during a Friday morning breakfast event whether he might scale back his campaign infrastructure if the straw poll went badly, Pawlenty acknowledged that would be considered.

“We may not have any choice if it went that way,” Pawlenty said. “Would we have to retrench in some fashion? Probably, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”  (RELATED: Pawlenty promises to mow lawns, cook dinner at Iowa debate)

He nevertheless conceded, “If we do really bad, we’ll have to reassess.”

Sitting on stage in cowboy boots and jeans at the event hosted by Politico’s Mike Allen, Pawlenty seemed more at ease than during a debate performance occupied mostly by back-and-forth jabs with Rep. Michele Bachmann.

“I can’t tell you that we’re going to win [the straw poll] tomorrow, or that we need to win it tomorrow,” Pawlenty told journalists, but he remained confident that his campaign would “see some good progress.”

And Pawlenty readily defended his part of the all-Minnesota debate within a debate, continuing his assault on Bachmann’s record and emphasizing what he saw as the congresswoman’s flaws.

Asked whether or not it was a mistake to attack a woman on stage, Pawlenty said it was not.

“It’s not about gender, it’s about the issues and the result,” he replied.

“Bachmann likes to assign herself the label of the leader,” Pawlenty continued. “If you’re going to be the leader, then you’ve got to be accountable for the results.”

He pointed to Bachmann’s claims that she “led the charge” against Obamacare, TARP, and more government spending, but noted that none of those efforts succeeded in stopping policies she opposed.

“Everything she’s led the charge against she’s failed to accomplish,” Pawlenty said. “We’re not going to put somebody in the Oval Office who hasn’t achieved results.”

“Nobody’s questioning her spine,” he added, reprising one of his biggest debate lines. “We’re questioning her lack of results.”

Addressing his generally more confrontational debate attitude which had him criticizing Romney and Bachmann to their faces, Pawlenty observed that whether he followed Ronald Reagan’s “eleventh commandment” or directly criticized his fellow GOP candidates, some observers were bound to take issue.

“No matter which way you calibrate that, a bunch of people are upset,” Pawlenty said.