Sunday, August 14, 2011

Michele Bachmann Is Queen for a Day in Ames

This week she was dismissed as the Queen of Rage in Newsweek, This Saturday she was annointed Queen of Ames in Iowa. The results are in from the Ames Straw Poll:

Michele Bachmann28.55%4,823"Everything I needed to know in life, I learned in Iowa."
Ron Paul27.65%4,671"We won a historic number of votes today in Iowa!"
Tim Pawlenty13.57%2,293"Our campaign needed to show progress and we did."
Rick Santorum9.81%1,657"Thank you Iowa for the overwhelming support!"
Herman Cain8.62%1,456"This is just the beginning of our efforts in Iowa, and we're coming back soon!"
Rick Perry3.62%718"Just announced I'm running for president."
Mitt Romney3.36%567"Look forward to crossing paths on the campaign trail."
Newt Gingrich2.28%385"Looking forward to taking up the debate again at the Reagan Library."
Jon Huntsman0.41%69
Thaddeus McCotter0.21%35

How much does the Ames straw poll matter? It shouldn't. It's 16,674 people voting out of a nation of 311 million. And there will be 7 to 10 times that number for the Iowa Caucuses in January. But it does matter.

Michele Bachmann has taken a lot of heat this summer, her win validates her candidacy. That gives her a notch on new entrant Rick Perry for the right to challenge Mitt Romney for front-runner status.

Tim Pawlenty would have done better to have finished 5th rather than 3rd. That would have given him an out to make a graceful exit from the race. Now he has to stay in a while longer.

Newt Gingrich, as I have believed for several months, is just in this for the debates. Whether he finished high enough to qualify for the next debate remains to be seen. He's finished as a candidate to take seriously.

Herman Cain did very well, considering the disarray in his Iowa campaign operation. But politics doesn't make such allowances. His is a case of what might have been.

Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman were punished by Iowans for skipping the straw poll. But will anyone else care? In Huntsman's case, no. In Romney's case, it may actually help him in New Hampshire.

Iowa's importance in this cycle has been diminished. The straw poll went to Iowa's native daughter, a congresswoman in the neighboring state of Minnesota. She must now be considered the front-runner to win the Iowa caucuses. That gives candidates who want to skip Iowa a plausible case that what happens in Iowa is local and has limited national significance. New Hampshire and South Carolina, with their first primaries, have been enhanced.

Update: Tim Pawlenty went to bed still in the race but woke up this morning and saw the writing on the wall (or perhaps read Left Bank of the Charles):

"I wish it would have been different. But obviously the pathway forward for me doesn't really exist so we are going to end the campaign."

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