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Posted by on Aug 13, 2011 in Breaking News, Politics | 13 comments

Michele Bachmann Wins Iowa Ames Straw Poll

Get ready for a battle royal in the Republican Party. More than ever.

On a day when Texas Gov. Rick Perry shook up the Republican 2012 nomination race landscape by the announcement that he’s in and he’ll run on the need to create more jobs, Rep. Michele Bachmann won the Ames straw poll in Iowa — solidifying her position as a major player in a race where the big three are now Bachmann, Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza:

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann scored a victory in the Ames Straw Poll on Saturday, a win likely to provide her considerable momentum as the 2012 race ramps up.

“What we saw happen today is this is the very first step toward taking the White House in 2012 and you have just sent a message that Barack Obama will be a one-term president,” said Bachmann after her victory was announced.

Bachmann took 4,823 votes, narrowly escaping a major upset at the hands of Texas Rep. Ron Paul who won 4,671 votes. Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty placed third with 2,293, a showing that is likely to raise questions about his ability to continue in the contest.

The order of finish beyond the top three went as follows: former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (1,567), businessman Herman Cain (1,456), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (718), former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (567), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (385), former Utah governor Jon Huntsman (69) and Michigan Rep. Thad McCotter (35).

Perry, Romney, Gingrich and Huntsman did not actively campaign at Ames. Nearly 17,000 vote were cast, the second largest turnout in the history of the Straw Poll.

For Bachmann, the victory further solidifies her as the clear frontrunner in the Iowa caucuses which are set to kick off the presidential balloting process in early February 2012.

Bachmann entered the straw poll as the favorite, thanks to the fact that polling suggested her surging in the state and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney chose not to participate in an event he won in 2007.

Taking no chances, Bachmann saturated the state with television ads in the run-up to the Straw Poll and barnstormed across the state in the final days before the vote. (On Friday, she did five events including an evening rally in which she threw cornballs into the crowd and jitterbugged with her husband, Marcus, on stage.)

On site at Ames, her operation had the whiff of disorganization in its early hours as long lines formed of people hoping to get into her tent — where Randy Travis was playing.

But the sheer numbers of Bachmann supporters became apparent as the day wore on. Lines and crowds stayed constant around her tent while the crowds ebbed away from Pawlenty.

And Pawlenty increasingly seems like a candidate who is in Pawlenty of trouble:

It was not immediately clear how Pawlenty would handle his disappointing third place finish. He and his campaign team had done everything they could in advance of the Straw Poll to lower expectations.

But, the former Minnesota governor needed a spark in Iowa — and nationally — that he had hoped the Straw Poll would provide. But, finishing behind Bachmann and Paul will make raising money a near-impossibility.

The Hill:

Pawlenty’s failure to finish in the top spot raises new questions about the core health of his campaign. The former Minnesota governor has failed to raise his poll numbers outside the single digits, and had poured most of his remaining resources into the straw poll, where he hoped a victory would infuse his campaign with new momentum.

“We made progress in moving from the back of the pack into a competitive position for the caucuses, but we have a lot more work to do,” Pawlenty said in a statement. “This is a long process to restore America — we are just beginning and I’m looking forward to a great campaign.”

Pawlenty had set expectations at a finish somewhere in the top-tier. He said repeatedly that a first-place finish wasn’t essential. But even Pawlenty acknowledged Friday that a disappointing finish would force him to “reassess” his campaign, which has set itself up as more of a traditional, nationally-oriented campaign.

Republican adviser Alex Castellanos said that Pawlenty’s campaign team would have to do some soul searching after the third place finish.

“Usually you end up going through the stages of death. First there’s denial, ‘Maybe we can find a way to extend this, slow and steady and grind it out. After all, McCain did that.’ Then you go through the anger, you start seeing people on the campaign pointing fingers, throwing people under the bus. Then step three, you have be realistic, and ask if you have the money to stay in the race,” Castellanos said.

“That’s what’s going to be happening in Pawlenty campaign in the next 24 hours.”

MSNBC’s Mark Murrsy now sees a long GOP nominating process:

Although she still has numerous challenges ahead — her opponents questioning her legislative record (or lack thereof), polls showing her losing to President Obama by double digits in a general election — there’s the potential that, come January or February, Bachmann will be the front-runner in Iowa, Mitt Romney will be the front-runner in New Hampshire, and Perry will be the front-runner in South Carolina. Of course, there’s lots of time until then, but that scenario could spell a LONG Republican presidential nomination.
The biggest loser in the straw poll was former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who received just half the votes that Bachmann and Paul got. Pawlenty needed a strong showing to erase — or at least lessen — the doubts about his campaign (his lackluster fundraising, his poor debate performance in June). But he didn’t get it.

Third-place has been unkind to past participants in Ames: The third-place finishers in 1999 (Elizabeth Dole) and 2007 (Sam Brownback) dropped out of the presidential race two months later.

Another interesting result: As a write-in candidate, Perry (718 votes) finished ahead of Romney (567), who was on the ballot. But while a pro-Perry organization here worked to win votes for the Texas governor, Romney’s team had absolutely no presence at the straw poll.

Kevin Drum:

Everyone expected Bachmann to win, and likewise, everyone knows that Ron Paul has a demonstrated (and meaningless) ability to round up his tiny band of fanatical troops for events like this. So third place isn’t too bad for Pawlenty, is it? Or was the “Pawlenty in trouble” media narrative already so set in stone that it didn’t matter how well he did?

Daily Kos:

As is generally expected from this Straw Poll, these results seem mostly to represent a ranking of the relative right-wing craziness of each candidate. I think Iowa got it mostly right in that regard, though I think Rick Santorum and Herman Cain are both easily crazier than Tim Pawlenty.

Ed Morrissey:

Pawlenty won the bare-minimum third place here in Iowa, but he got less than half of the votes of the two ahead of him. That is not going to be a ringing endorsement for his campaign to continue. With Perry’s entry, his argument for supercompetent executive doesn’t differentiate him any longer, and going head-to-head with Bachmann didn’t help his numbers, either. Rick Santorum will fade out soon, as he’s going to have difficulty raising money from here on out, as Pawlenty might, too.

It may be trite to say this, but you know who this near-tie helps? Mitt Romney and Rick Perry.

–Two reactions from TPM’s David Kurtz. First this:

No surprise that Ron Paul did so well. And no surprise to anyone who’s been following the Iowa race closely that Bachmann won — but step back for a minute and consider how mind-blowing it would have been even six months ago, let alone a year or two back, to think of Michele Bachmann as a major contender for the GOP nomination, arguably the frontrunner now in Iowa. It truly boggles.

Then this:

The Mitt Romney camp will point out over and over that he didn’t compete in Iowa so don’t read too much into the Ames results. But the reason he didn’t compete was because trying to win and failing spectacularly was considered more damaging than preemptively conceding. The bottom line is Romney threw in the towel because he knew he was doomed.

A lot of the analysis (a generous term considering the peculiar nature of this straw poll) will focus on how damaging a third place finish is to Tim Pawlenty, whose early strategy — before Bachmann entered the race — had been to dominate his neighboring Iowa and carry that momentum into South Carolina. But Romney’s prospects here are so dim that he just bailed altogether.

I still have trouble seeing what the Romney strategy is,,

The Politico:

Iowa Rep. Steve King called Michele Bachmann’s straw poll victory a testament to her “force of personality,” and predicted that newly-declared presidential candidate Rick Perry would have to work harder as a result of the outcome in Ames.

Asked if Bachmann’s win would make it harder for Perry to court tea party voters and other core Iowa activists, King told POLITICO: “It does to some degree. I don’t know how much. It’s hard to measure Rick Perry since he hasn’t been here.”

King, who has criticized Perry’s decision to announce his campaign on the same day as the straw poll, continued: “He’s coming tomorrow. He chose the time directly against our straw poll here, he chose that time, so that doesn’t help him. He could have chosen any other day to do that. Just strategically, Iowans get that. He’s gonna be all right, but he’s gonna have to work harder because of it.”

The outspoken congressman, who counts Bachmann among his close friends in the House, said her performance Saturday validated the down-the-line conservative stances both she and King have taken in Washington.

“This isn’t built because of a lot of money spent on organization. It’s built on the force of her personality and the force of the principles that she’s advanced here as a candidate,” he said.

ABC News:

Proving that she could match enthusiasm with organization, Michele Bachmann won the Ames Straw Poll today, catapulting her into into the next phase of the Republican presidential primary.

“Now it’s on to all 50 states,” Bachmann said in front of her campaign bus minutes after the results were announced. She thanked Iowans for her support. “God bless you, everyone.”

But the results of the contest here also dealt a potentially devastating blow to Tim Pawlenty, who despite weeks of crisscrossing the state to boost support for his candidacy, trailed in a distant third place behind both Bachmann and second-place finisher Ron Paul.

“I want to congratulate Congresswoman Bachmann on her victory in today’s straw poll. I’m also very proud of the work my campaign has done, and I appreciate their hard work,” Pawlenty said in a statement. “As I’ve said all along, we needed to show progress to do well, and we did just that. This is a long process to restore America — we are just beginning, and I’m eager for the campaign.”

Bachmann, who has been firing up crowds across Iowa all week, received a total of 4,823 votes out of a total 16,892 votes cast, which topped the 2007 total of 14,302. Less than 200 votes separated Bachmann from Paul, who received 4,671 votes.

“I think we did very well,” Paul said in a brief as he left the campus of Iowa State University where the straw poll was held.

Pawlenty’s weak showing — more than 2,500 votes behind Bachmann — will inevitably lead to talk about whether he will be able to continue his presidential bid. At a breakfast with reporters earlier this week, Pawlenty acknowledged “if we do really bad, we’ll have to reassess,” suggesting that at the very least a campaign shake-up may be in the works.

The Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman offers this summary of what this means:

*Bye-bye T-Paw
*Perry as a last-minute write-in bests a weak Mitt
*Combination of Bachmann and Paul strength will generate more questions about the wisdom of doing a straw poll at all
*Newt, with 385 votes, needs to drop out
*Santorum is in danger with a fourth place finish in a state where evangelicals matter so much
*Romney supporters argue that this will help Mitt by pitting Perry against Bachmann for the evangelical/Tea Party vote
*Ron Paul is about to become a MAJOR headache for the GOP