ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty dropped out of the race for the GOP presidential nomination on Sunday, hours after finishing a disappointing third in the Iowa straw poll.

"I wish it would have been different. But obviously the pathway forward for me doesn't really exist, so we are going to end the campaign," Pawlenty said on ABC's "This Week" from Iowa shortly after disclosing his plans in a private conference call with supporters.

The low-key Midwesterner and two-term governor had struggled to gain traction in a state he had said he must win and never caught fire nationally with a Republican electorate seemingly craving a charismatic, nonestablishment, rabble-rouser to go up against President Barack Obama.

Pawlenty tried to turn up the heat on Obama and his GOP rivals. But it often came across unnatural and he never was able to stoke the passions of voters.

"What I brought forward, I thought, was a rational, established, credible, strong record of results, based on experience governing -- a two-term governor of a blue state. But I think the audience, so to speak, was looking for something different," he said.

In recent weeks, he withered under the rise of tea party favorite Michele Bachmann, whose rallying cry is a sure-fire applause line about making Obama a one-term president, and libertarian-leaning Ron Paul, as well as the promise of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the Texan who entered the race Saturday.