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Did Bachmann Bite Off More Than She Can Chew?

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By winning the Iowa Straw Poll event, did Michele Bachmann doom her candidacy? History suggests so.

The Republican Party in Iowa has been doing the Ames, Iowa Straw Poll since 1979. In the 30+ years of taking the poll, only once (George Bush, 2000) has the winner of the straw poll gone on to win the nomination and the presidency.

The list of winners of the Iowa Straw Poll is a who's who conglomeration of crazy and mostly unelectable candidates (at times) and relatively moderate candidates at other times. It's a strange mix of extreme social conservatives one year and middle-of-the-road candidates the next.

  • 1980 Election: George H.W. Bush won the 1979 Iowa Straw Poll, which propelled him to victory in the Iowa Caucuses in 1980. He lost the Nomination to Ronald Reagan, but made the ticket as Reagan's Vice Presidential nominee. The Reagan-Bush ticket won in 1980.
  • 1988 Election: Televangelist Pat Robertson won the 1987 Iowa Straw Poll, but lost the Iowa Caucuses to the more electable Bob Dole. Neither man won the nomination, though, as Vice President Bush topped the 1988 ticket. Eventual nominee George H.W. Bush finished third in the straw poll.
  • 1996 Election: Bob Dole and Phil Gramm tied the 1995 Iowa Straw Poll, with each man gathering 2,582 votes. Dole went on to win the Iowa Caucuses and was the party's nominee in the 1996 election. Dole, who picked Jack Kemp as his running mate, lost the 1996 election to Bill Clinton.
  • 2000 Election: George W. Bush won the 1999 Iowa Straw Poll, twenty years after his father pulled off his first win in Iowa. Bush went on to win the Iowa Caucuses and was awarded the presidency in 2000.
  • 2008 Election: Mitt Romney won the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll, largely because he was the only top candidate who bothered to try hard. It didn't give him much momentum though, and Mike Huckabee ended up winning the Iowa Caucuses. Huckabee eventually lost the nomination to John McCain, who in turn lost to Barack Obama in the general election. Eventual nominee John McCain finished tenth in the straw poll, mostly because he skipped the event entirely.

As you can see, the results are a mixed bag for Republicans. Romney's decision to not play in the Iowa State Fair this year may turn out to be a good one, if he can retain some momentum in Iowa ahead of the Iowa Caucuses this winter. However, he may have just handed Bachmann a free win — and the extra, good publicity that comes from winning a relatively high-profile event.

On the other hand, Romney also now splits the front-runner burden with Bachmann. She might become the target of attacks from other tea party candidates, including Cain, Santorum, and most importantly, Perry.

Rick Perry now has one obstacle standing between himself and a showdown with Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination: Michele Bachmann. He can position himself as the most electable, which will bring with it some Romney voters, but his core constituency is going to be the Bachmann voters. Those two camps will likely spend the next few months going at the same chunk of the Republican Party.

The wild card remains Ron Paul. His supporters came so close (within 152 votes) of winning the Straw Poll outright. In any sane political world, a second place finish in this event would be a huge win for what some consider a second-tier candidate. Yet, Paul is ignored or belittled in almost every single news story about the 2012 election.

So where is Ron Paul's coverage? Nowhere to be seen! The top stories on Saturday were Bachmann's win, Perry entering the race, and Pawlenty dropping out. Ron Paul takes an army of activists into Ames and almost pulls out a win with the entire GOP establishment against him...and no one cares?

As of right now, the GOP landscape looks like this: Romney, Perry, and Bachmann are still the favorites to battle for the nomination to the end. Ron Paul, given his numbers and his different stances on important issues, should be in with that group — but the media and the Republican Party seem to want to push him away from the table as soon as possible. (I believe this will backfire, which we will get into in a later piece). The other candidates are wasting their time and money, or perhaps pursuing their own vanity runs.

For now, the headlines and momentum are with Michele Bachmann. Is she catching her stride or peaking too soon? Will Perry take votes away from her, Romney, or both? Will Romney implode after the "corporations are people" gaffe? As always, stay tuned.

Formal Iowa Straw Poll Results

  • U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.): 4,823 votes
  • U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas): 4,671 votes
  • Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty: 2,293 votes
  • Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.): 1,657 votes
  • Former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain: 1,456 votes
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry: 718 votes
  • Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney: 567 votes
  • Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich: 385 votes
  • Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman: 69 votes
  • U.S. Rep Thad McCotter (R-Mich.): 35 votes

You can reach the author by email john@benzinga.com or on twitter @johndthorpe.

 

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Posted-In: 2012 Election GOP Iowa straw poll Michele BachmannNews Movers & Shakers Politics General Best of Benzinga

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