MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Iowa Straw Poll is considered the first big test for the GOP in the 2012 presidential race, and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann beat out her rival Tim Pawlenty Saturday by a hefty margin.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul came second in the poll, just 150 votes behind Bachmann; and Pawlenty finished a distant third.
The poll, which is held in Ames, Iowa, is widely considered an early test of a candidate’s strength in Iowa, a the battleground state.
Bachmann took 29 percent of the vote, Paul took 28 percent and Pawlenty got 14 percent.
One of the major questions to emerge from the poll’s aftermath is: How will Bachmann use the win to her advantage? Another is: What will become of the Pawlenty campaign – one that for the past two months has been losing steam.
Humphrey School of Political Affairs professor Larry Jacobs said Bachmann’s win in Iowa was a significant victory for her campaign.
“In just a few months, she’s catapulted herself to the very top of the Republican Party nomination for president,” he said.
He also said that Paul’s showing a big surprise – one that few saw coming.
On the other hand, Pawlenty’s campaign is now recovering from a big disappointment.
“[Pawlenty] was looking to show that he could put together an organization,” Jacobs said. “After two terrible months, there is no doubt conversations going on in the Pawlenty camp about what to do next. There are some who are talking about pulling out.”
Pawlenty, however, said that he still has a lot of work do to and that he is not dropping out of the race quite yet.
And he shouldn’t, because the results of the straw poll hardly predict who will get the Republican nomination or win the White House.
Only one Republican has won the Iowa Straw Poll, the Iowa Caucuses and gone on to win the White House. That Republican was George W. Bush, and he did it in 1999.
What the Iowa poll does do, however, is offer America a view of what Iowa voters think about the field of Republicans who have their eye on the nomination
“Iowa will be the pace car, if you will, to set the tone and set the pace for bringing this country back to its greatness,” Bachmann said.
Jacobs said the Bachmann’s victory in Iowa will give her campaign great momentum going into the fall, and that only time will tell how the rest of America feels about her.