During an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Wednesday, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty (R) signaled he currently sees former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney as the leading Republican presidential candidate to run against President Barack Obama in 2012.
Pawlenty abandoned his campaign for the White House last month on the heels of coming in third place in the Ames Straw Poll -- a table-setter for next year's Iowa caucuses -- behind Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas).
In assessing the state of the GOP presidential field, Pawlenty said he sees the race "coming down" to Romney and Texas Governor Rick Perry. "The polls are indicating that Mitt Romney runs a little stronger nationally than Rick Perry at this moment," he explained.
During an appearance on "The Colbert Report" on Tuesday night, the former Minnesota governor addressed his decision to drop out of the Republican primary race after the Ames Straw Poll.
"I was out of money," explained Pawlnety. "We came in third place behind Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, I think that's enough for any one person to endure."
HuffPost's Sam Stein reported last month that Pawlenty's political operation was in debt at the time the former governor left the race.
"We didn't just want to survive, we wanted to win," said Pawlenty, adding that political races today appear to be "taking on more and more of a reality TV show component." He explained, "You gotta have not just money, but you gotta have an entertainment component. I brought forward a record of serious policy approach I thought to the campaign and at least in that moment in time the electorate was looking for something else."
In responding to a question on the "entertainment component," Pawlenty quipped, "I thought about shooting sparks up my butt."
Below, video of Pawlenty's appearance on "The Colbert Report" on Tuesday night.