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Pawlenty makes his final pitch to straw-poll attendees

AMES, IA -- With a half hour left to vote before the 5:00 pm ET deadline, Republican presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty made a final appeal to straw poll voters.

Pawlenty said he looked forward to seeing the crowd throughout Iowa as his campaign continued through the caucuses.

But late in the afternoon, the difference between the former Minnesota governor's supporters and those of his in-state rival Michele Bachmann was noticeably different: Her indoor tent was filled with a tightly packed crowd listening to country-music star Randy Travis, while Pawlenty's tent was sporadically populated with supporters listening to the Christian Rock band Sonic Flood. 

And file this away: At the last stop of Pawlenty's campaign before today's Ames Straw poll, the former Minnesota governor yesterday approached someone his campaign rarely openly welcomes -- a tracker from the liberal leaning organization American Bridge.

Trackers are accustomed to being approached by campaigns, usually in an attempt to get them to leave. But rarely does the candidate seek out trackers -- and perhaps never has a candidate had a request similar to Pawlenty's: He wanted to take a photo with the tracker, telling him: "In case we never see each other again." 

So Pawlenty and a stunned tracker -- who had been following the candidate through Iowa since he announced his run on May 23 -- made their way up to the stage and stood next to each other and smiled while a photographer snapped a photo.

Asked by NBC News whether it meant his campaign is running out of steam, Pawlenty answered, "Will [the tracker's name] has been following us around, and I wanted to make sure we got a picture before whatever is next for him."