By Jordan Fabian and Michael O'Brien - 06/28/11 08:19 PM EDT
Tim Pawlenty (R) said Tuesday that he doesn't need to win a key presidential straw poll this summer in order to have success in next winter's Iowa caucuses.
Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor, said that his campaign is committed to performing well in the Hawkeye State, but looked to downplay expectations for August's Ames Straw Poll, an early test of the state of the GOP field.
Pawlenty has made Iowa the centerpiece of his campaign strategy, hoping that a strong finish in this Feburary's caucuses will help catapult him into contention for the Republican presidential nomination.
The Minnesotan has claimed he has time to make a jump in the polls. but
political observers have questioned when that needs to happen for Pawlenty to become a contender.
A Des Moines Register poll released over the weekend showed the 50-year-old ex-governor in a distant sixth place among likely GOP caucus-goers. But he has downplayed the poll's results this week, saying that it was conducted before he launched a radio and television ad campaign designed to introduce him to a broader swath Iowans.
And Pawlenty reportedly plans to spend nearly half of July in Iowa in an effort to raise his profile and appeal to voters.
While the Ames Straw Poll is known as a key bellwether of the primary field, it's winner has not always prevailed in the caucuses.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney invested much time and money in order to win the 2007 Ames poll. But former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) — the poll's second-place finisher — eventually won the caucuses.
Even though he says he does not need to win the straw poll, Pawlenty warned Iowa voters not to pick a fringe candidate at the straw poll, saying they risk rendering their first in the nation caucuses irrelevant.
"I think Iowa wants the straw poll and the caucuses to remain relevant. One of the things I hope Iowans will consider is making sure they put forth winners in both of those events that are viewed as credible and likely successful nominees and candidates for president," he said.