Saturday, August 13, 2011

Michele Bachmann Wins Ames Straw Poll

Michele Bachmann received the most votes in the Ames straw poll, a voting event that occurs during August before the primaries. The event has no formal impact; candidates do not win any delegates from the straw poll. The straw poll is also completely unlike the Iowa Caucus. Instead, only a small number of votes are cast by people who have been bussed to Ames, Iowa. Most often, "voters" in the straw poll are paid to attend. The straw poll results sometimes reflect the strength of candidates, however: In 2008, Mitt Romney won the straw poll, and Mike Huckabee came in a surprise second. (Huckabee won first and Romney placed second in the Iowa Caucus.)

Fewer than 17,000 votes were cast in the straw poll. Several candidates did not participate, including Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and Jon Huntsman (though they received write-in votes). The results were as follows:

Ames Straw Poll
Bachmann 4,823
Paul 4,671
Pawlenty 2,293
Santorum 1,657
Cain 1,456
Perry 718 (write-in)
Romney 567 (write-in)
Gingrich 385
Huntsman 69 (write-in)

Bachmann was expected to win. The very close second-place finish of Ron Paul, who is not a serious candidate and has no chance of winning Iowa, emphasizes the fact that the straw poll is not necessarily attached to the reality of voters on the ground. The non-participation of Romney and Perry further minimizes the importance of the results--by those campaigns' design.

Tim Pawlenty will likely be disappointed, as he hoped to finish higher. His entire campaign strategy relies on Iowa. However, his actual scenario for winning does not involve doing well early on. Instead, he would serve as a consensus candidate after the others have torn each other apart or self-destructed. With such a scenario, the candidate cannot be impatient; if Pawlenty does well in the Iowa Caucus, his poll numbers will not reflect his strength until the end of the year.

Herman Cain and Rick Santorum, to say nothing of Newt Gingrich, also under-performed.

The only likely impact of Bachmann's win--if there is any impact--will be to irritate many in the Republican establishment. Mainstream Republican voters have grown tired of fearing the possible nomination of Bachmann, which they believe would result in a guaranteed win for Barack Obama. Perry and Romney will both be warning voters that if they don't get the nomination, Bachmann could.