Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) admitted Friday he'll have to "reassess" the direction of his campaign if he finishes poorly in Saturday's Iowa straw poll.

Pawlenty said he could be forced to scale back his national infrastructure if he performs worse than expected in the Ames straw poll, where he's expected to finish in the top three.

"We may not have any choice, if it went that way," Pawlenty said at a breakfast in Iowa sponsored by Politico of the threat of a poor finish to his campaign.

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Pawlenty has targeted Iowa voters, but faces stiff competition in the straw poll — and February's caucuses — from Reps. Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannPawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota US ambassador repeated debunked claim that Abedin has 'egregious' ties to Muslim Brotherhood Bachmann considering running for Franken's seat MORE (R-Minn.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas), each of whom is also focused on Iowa. 

A poor finish could threaten Pawlenty's campaign because of his lackluster fundraising to date and high spending rate going into the straw poll. A number of top staff members are working with little or no pay, The Washington Post reported in June.

"If the thing went the other way hard, would we have to probably retrench or something? Probably, but I don't think that will be the outcome," Pawlenty said. "If we do really bad, then we'll have to reassess."

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP senators eager for Romney to join them Five hurdles to a big DACA and border deal Grand jury indicts Maryland executive in Uranium One deal: report MORE (R-Iowa), the senior member of the state's congressional delegation, suggested that Pawlenty has to finish well or he's toast.

"I think that Pawlenty, campaigning so hard in Iowa, has to show up good in the straw polls, or else it shows that his effort really isn't paying off," Grassley said on CNBC.

Updated at 11:07 a.m.