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Bachmann wins Iowa straw poll, but does it mean anything?


Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann won a test vote of Iowans on Saturday, a show of popularity and organizational strength for the tea party favorite five months before the state’s caucuses kick off the GOP presidential nominating season.

The result is the first indication of what Iowans think of the field of Republicans competing for the chance to challenge President Barack Obama next fall. But it’s hardly predictive of who will win the winter Iowa contest, much less the party nod or the White House.

Rather, Saturday’s outcome suggests that Bachmann has a certain level of support and, perhaps even more important, the strongest get-out-the-vote operation and widest volunteer base in a state whose caucuses require those elements.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul finished a close second while former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty placed a distant third.

“We have a lot more work to do,” Pawlenty said, making clear he wasn’t dropping out despite a disappointing finish. “We are just beginning and I’m looking forward to a great campaign.”

The results of the nonbinding vote, held on the Iowa State University campus, came just hours after Texas Gov. Rick Perry entered the race.

“I full well believe I’m going to win,” Perry told South Carolina voters on a conference call before delivering his first speech as a candidate.

“It’s time to get America working again,” he declared in Charleston, S.C. “America is not broken. Washington, D.C. is broken.”

Despite Perry’s best efforts to overshadow the day, the epicenter of the presidential contest was in this Midwestern town, where nearly 17,000 Iowans cast ballots during a daylong political festival, a late-summer ritual held every four years.

In speeches throughout the day, candidates scouted for support by assailing Obama and offering themselves as the answer to an America plagued by high unemployment, rising debt and stock market swings.

“We know what America needs. But unfortunately Barack Obama has no clue. He’s like a manure spreader in a windstorm,” Pawlenty said, adding: “Mr. President, get the government off our backs.” That elicited chants of his nickname: “T-Paw! T-Paw! T-Paw!”

Pawlenty had a lot on the line. He’s ranked low in polls and was looking to prove he was still a viable candidate. He argued that he was the candidate of results, given his record as Minnesota governor.

Bachmann stressed faith and her Iowa roots — she was born in Waterloo — as well as her opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage. She earned cheers when she declared: “We are going to make Barack Obama a one-term president.”

Bachmann, riding high since entering the race earlier this summer, had hoped that a strong finish would give her even more momentum just as Perry looks to infringe on her base of tea party and evangelical support. She invoked God and faith as she stressed what she called her conservative values, saying: “In Iowa, we are social conservatives and we will never be ashamed of being social conservatives.”

Paul, with a following among libertarian-leaning voters, wanted a surprise showing that might convince Republicans he was more mainstream than not in his second shot at the GOP nomination. He referenced his fellow Texan’s entrance in the race and said he didn’t anticipate many of his supporters jumping ship for what he called a “super-establishment candidate.”

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, businessman Herman Cain and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia also were on the ballot. So were GOP front-runner Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, though they weren’t competing in the contest.

Perry and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who made a splash Friday when she visited the state fair, weren’t listed. But their backers planned write-in campaigns that could outpace candidates who have spent months trying to line up supporters to participate.

The straw poll isn’t a scientific poll at all; it amounts to a popularity contest and a test of organizational strength.

Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. speaks to her supporters at the Republican Party's Straw Poll in Ames, Iowa, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Poor showings usually force some candidates, mostly those who are not well-known and are struggling to raise money, to abandon their bids. That could happen this year, too.

The straw poll has a mixed record of predicting the outcome of the precinct caucuses.

In 2008, Romney won the straw poll, but the big news was the surprising second-place showing of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses, but dropped from the race soon after. Sen. John McCain, who eventually won the nomination, didn’t compete in the straw poll and finished in 10th place.

7 thoughts on “Bachmann wins Iowa straw poll, but does it mean anything?”

  1. Thanks Griff, it is likely I will vote for Ron Paul. I’m taking my politics a step further.

    Report Number 1
    August 14, 2011

    My politics have always leaned to the right and I am well known as Right Point of View with an email address “” but after taking a close look at the Republican Party agenda I have had to rethink my own agenda.

    I became an Atheist in high school when I found a copy of Darwin’s “On the Origin of the Species” and something began to grow in my brain. I had rejected my family historical LDS religion and soon realized that God did not exist in my world.

    I did not join a group or even try to combine it in my political opinions. It had nothing to do with my State or Federal Government. I attended meetings of the John Birch Society that fell on an empty attempt at bringing Jesus into the government. Not for me!

    The Goldwater campaign caught my interest and my husband and I worked the campaign and were disappointed at the results. There was a strong Separation of Church and State and we were happy that many Christians saw the agenda of Goldwater to be a good one. Neither of us had a clue what the Evangelicals had in mind for a new Republican Party and they would begin their divide of the party that may have succeeded at this time.

    Fiscal Conservatives have worked for years to scale back government control over our individual lives. In 1999 it was the George Walker Bush agenda that developed a new Republican Party that looked more like a revival of the Inquisitions of Europe. Alan Keyes brought in a list of sins that must be banned through a Constitutional Amendment.

    Another Governor of Texas has threatened to ban gay marriages through an Amendment which will add a ban on abortions, a ban on birth control and teaching “End of Times” in our public schools. These are all found in the agenda of the Evangelical Fundamentalist concepts of Christianity. Will this end up being the Agenda of the GOP in 2012?

    This new threat to individual freedoms will send me flying at jet speed into the world of Liberals. How many more pissed-off Republicans will do this?

    I am not promoting abortions but promote keeping it out of the Federal Government. I am not promoting suicides for terminally ill people who are living in unbelievable agony, I am promoting keeping it out of the government. I have been promoting the individual rights of American homosexuals who should not lose their rights to marry based on a Christian reading of the bible.

    If and when the Republican Party wins the election in 2012 there is no doubt that America will be declared a Christian Nation and the laws from Rome will be the laws of America. This will be the result of the Evangelicals coming on too strong on the voters. Apparently American voters need a spiritual God to tell them what not to do. They will demand that our U.S. Constitution adapt to fit the agenda of the Evangelical-Fundamental movement.

    This upsets me greatly as an American Republican since 1952.

    Sandra Price

    I’ve sent this to several commentators on T.V. Who knows, it might just get a following. All I’m doing is taking the GOP back to where it started.

  2. And I thought all politicians were wind assisted manure spreaders, Huh ?

    Conservative social values.
    Gated golf course communities.

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