Michele Bachmann has won the Ames Straw Poll, state GOP chair Matt Strawn announced on Saturday.
Bachmann secured 4823 votes, edging out Ron Paul, who had 4671 votes. Tim Pawlenty finished a distant third with 2293 votes - a disappointing result for the Minnesota governor after investing heavy resources as part of his broader Iowa-focused strategy. He suggested recently that he may have to a “reassess” his campaign if he fails to make an impact in the straw poll.
“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 congratulating Bachmann.
Rounding out the rest of the field were Rick Santorum with 1657 votes, Herman Cain with 1456, Mitt Romney with 567, Newt Gingrich with 385, Jon Huntsman with 69, and Thad McCotter with 35. The bottom four, except for McCotter, did not participate in the day’s events.
Bachmann’s victory was unsurprising given her strong standing in the state. In addition to her natural appeal to social conservatives, Bachmann was born in Iowa and has played up her roots early and often on the campaign trail. Her speech at Iowa State University on Saturday was no different.
“My mother and father taught us to always love Iowa,” she told the crowd.”They said, ‘Be grateful that you’re from Iowa. Iowa is the breadbasket of the world. We feed millions of people from Iowa. Be grateful.’ So I have always been grateful that I am an Iowan and I believe it’s time we had an Iowan in the White House.”
The straw poll was overshadowed by Texas Governor Rick Perry, who upstaged the event by announcing his own presidential bid on Saturday in South Carolina.
“It is time to get America working again,” he said in a speech at the RedState convention. “That’s why, with the support of my family, and an unwavering belief in the goodness of America, I declare to you today my candidacy for President of the United States.”
Even though he wasn’t on the ballot in Iowa, Perry scored 718 write-in votes at Ames — more than his rival, Romney, whose name was listed despite not participating.
Perry’s entrance in the race threatens to crowd out contenders who have yet to make their move in the polls — especially Tim Pawlenty, who has positioned himself as an electable alternative to Romney. A staunch social and fiscal conservative, The Texas governor can make a credible play for both Bachmann and Romney’s supporters.
Iowans cast over 16,892 votes at the event, an increase from 14,000 at the 2007 contest, in which Mitt Romney won over second place finisher Mike Huckabee. Huckabee went on to win the caucuses.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.