Earlier, Right Turn reported on the kerfuffle over third party non-profit groups assisting Tim Pawlenty in the Ames straw poll. One of those groups, Strong America Now, has decided to back out of Ames. Strong America Now has sent out an email obtained by Right Turn:

“Strong America Now has pulled the majority of Ames Straw Poll responsibilities from Campaign Headquarters after learning through press reports that it was also leading the Ames Poll efforts for the Pawlenty campaign. Campaign Headquarters is a third-party vendor for Strong America Now that manages its phone efforts and field staff.

“Strong America Now is independent from all campaigns. To date, six presidential candidates have signed the Strong America Now pledge. Rep. Michelle Bachmann will become our latest pledge signer this Saturday in Cedar Rapids, IA. We are thrilled that since our efforts launched in February, seven presidential candidates and over 20,000 Americans have become advocates of Strong America Now’s waste reduction, grassroots movement.”

Strong America Now’s executive director has not yet responded to my request for comment. I will relay any comment he might have.

This development coincides with a news report showing Pawlenty’s close relationship with another third party, the Iowa Energy Forum. Jon Ward writes that Pawlenty was forced to acknowledge the presence of three Iowa Energy Forum women who followed him at every stop and threw out softball questions:

“Okay, I’m going to answer your question, but the Iowa Energy Forum, very dedicated group, mostly of young volunteers and helpers, and they come to all the meetings and they ask good questions, they’re usually high school or college students, right? So, before I answer your question, let’s give you a little work assignment here,” Pawlenty said. “Why don’t you stand up and tell this group what the Iowa Energy Forum is and what you believe and what you’re trying to advocate for. All right?”

It turns out that two of the three women were “interning this summer at a Des Moines political consulting shop run by two Pawlenty advisers who have been working with him since last year.” It also turns out that two former Pawlenty staffers are now helping his efforts through the auspices of yet another third-party group, the American Petroleum Institute.

This was the last thing that Pawlenty needed. It both cuts into his support on the ground and introduces another negative story line at a time when he is desperately trying to make the case for himself.