AMES, Iowa (AP) — The 2012 Republican presidential race was jolted Saturday as Iowans weighed in for the first time on their expanding field of presidential hopefuls while halfway across the country latecomer Texas Gov. Rick Perry formally entered the race, declaring: “America is not broken. Washington, D.C. is broken.”

Together, the events were certain to reshuffle the race to face President Barack Obama. Exactly how was anybody’s guess, as the front-runners sought an early validation that they have widespread appeal, with those further behind in the pack hoping to gain momentum and avoid increased questions over their viability as candidates.

Nearly a dozen Republicans are seeking the chance to challenge Obama next fall for the leadership of a country facing a recent downgrade in its credit rating, high unemployment and Wall Street tumult. And, from Iowa to South Carolina on Saturday, several of those candidates used their perches before GOP activists in two critical early voting states to castigate the Democratic incumbent and offer themselves as the answer to an ailing America.

“We know what America needs,” former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty told thousands of Iowans gathered on the Iowa State University campus. “But unfortunately, Barack Obama has no clue. He’s like a manure spreader in a windstorm.”

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann earned cheers from the same crowd minutes later when she declared: “We are going to make Barack Obama a one-term president.”

The two were among the hopefuls with the most on the line in the Iowa Straw Poll, an every-four-years vote by thousands of GOP activists that provides clues about each candidate’s level of support and campaign organization five months before the Iowa caucuses kick off the GOP primary season. The results are hardly predictive of who will win the state’s winter precinct caucuses but the summer test vote can shape the race for the months ahead by providing winning candidates with a burst of momentum while taking the wind out of the campaigns of those who lose.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, businessman Herman Cain and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia also were on the ballot. So were GOP front-runner Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, though they weren’t competing in the contest.

Backers for Perry and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who made a splash Friday when she visited the Iowa State Fair, worked the crowd to try to get activists to write in their names. Any support they gain could impact the standing of candidates who have spent months trying to line up supporters to participate.

As the day began, thousands of GOP activists gathered at Iowa State University for the late-summer political festival that officially serves as a fundraiser for the state GOP. They ate barbeque and listened to live music under tents on the campus while milling with candidates who delivered speeches inside the university’s coliseum, trying to sway still undecided Republican activists.

With Romney not competing, the event was a chance for some of the underdogs to try to emerge as the grassroots challenger to the former Massachusetts governor who won the straw poll four years ago. For some candidates, it was about gaining momentum with strong or surprising performances. Others hoped to prove their viability.

Bachmann, the energetic three-term congresswoman with tea party backing who has vaulted to the top of polls in Iowa, used her Saturday speech to emphasize her credentials as a native Iowan and a devout social conservative. She was looking to maintain momentum just as Perry seeks to infringe on her base of tea party and evangelical support.

“I love Iowans,” she said, adding: “In Iowa, we are social conservatives and we will never be ashamed of being social conservatives.”

Pawlenty, who is banking on a strong showing in the caucuses, also had a lot on the line. He’s ranked low in polls despite laying the groundwork for a campaign over the past two years and has struggled to gain traction against an unexpectedly strong challenge from Bachmann in Iowa, a state critical to both of their candidacies.

He argued that he was the candidate of results, given his record as Minnesota governor. Trying to control expectations, he predicted the results would show “momentum.”

Texas Rep. Ron Paul, with a following among libertarian-leaning voters, was looking for a surprise showing in hopes that it would convince Republicans that he was more mainstream than not in his second shot at the GOP nomination. He referenced Perry’s entrance in the race and said he didn’t anticipate many of his supporters jumping ship for what he called a “super-establishment candidate.”

Roughly 1,200 miles away, Perry sought to overshadow the summer’s marquee event in the GOP race by delivering his first speech as a full-fledged presidential candidate in Charleston, S.C.

“It is time to get America working again,” Perry declared, casting himself as a job-creating Washington, D.C., outsider. “We just got to get back to the basic truths of economic success.”

He first disclosed his plans in a conference call with South Carolina activists, saying: “I full well believe I’m going to win.”

Then, he plunged into his campaign before an overflow crowd at the conservative RedState bloggers gathering in South Carolina, introducing himself as a small-town Texan who met his future wife at age 8 during a piano recital.

He focused heavily on Obama in his remarks, and struck a populist tone, saying: “We reject this president’s unbridled fixation on taking more money out of the wallets and pocketbooks of American families and employers and giving it to a central government.”

And he added: “I will not sit back and accept the path that America is on. Because a great country requires a better direction. Because a renewed nation needs a new president.”

With that, he headed to New Hampshire, another important primary state, to begin his grass-roots outreach in earnest at a house party — just as the Iowa straw poll victor was to be announced.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (35)
  1. b says:

    look at me i am tim pawlenty the sky is green i am an idiot give up t_paw you messed up minneota we dont need you destroying the country, the republicans will slowly destroy the coutry

    1. See BS says:

      If you make a timeline dating back to FDR, comparing stock market trends, oil consumption, the oil reserve, along with color codes with who controls the house, senate and the Whitehouse.

      I can bet it’s not the GOP hurting the economy. Why not throw in lawsuit abuse trends on this detailed timeline.

      1. frozenrunner says:

        The timeline would be pointless as the GOP of the 1940-1960’s is no more. Dewey, Eisenhower and Rockefeller would no longer be welcome in today’s GOP. Bipartisan efforts contributed to today’s situation. There can be no dispute the decline of the economy was in George W Bush’s policies. None of the current candidates offer a plan that would work. Trickle down does not work. The wealthier have gotten more of a share of the wealth since Reagan and that trend has not changed. The economy has not gotten any better.

        1. Reality sucks says:

          then why is Obama meeting with the author of Reaganomics? Makes ya wonder if we’ve just run out of options doesn’t it? We have.

          1. Michele Bachmann Caught Using Taxpayer Money For Rallies says:

            Michele Bachmann Caught Using Taxpayer Money For Rallies

        2. See BS says:

          Eisenhower complaining about Socialism, right before JFK sent troops to Vietnam and LBJ started flooding the Middle East with Military Weapons.

          I bet you didn’t know it was President Truman who started the CIA and sent them to Vietnam with Foriegn assistance act money.

          Eisenhower passed more Civil Rights Acts than LBJ — that’s because he was a Republican.

        3. Essie says:

          No cpoamlints on this end, simply a good piece.

      2. O'Reilly warns Bachmann about economic disaster. says:

        ill O’Reilly Warns Rep. Michele Bachmann On Debt Fight: ‘You Are The Renegade Here’ – 07/12/11

  2. jeff says:

    this whole lot is full of santorum.

    1. the crux of the buscuit says:

      MMMMMMMMMM frothy…….

  3. none of them so far says:

    Kinda sad – not sure where my votes headed but MB is 100% no and T-Paw 99%
    Hope Perry can bring something to the table that is honest

  4. Tired and old says:

    Bachmann is looking a wee bit overly ripe nowadays. Marcus could plant some seeds but he saves for his boyfriends so that is out. Can someone help her out with some seeds?

  5. the crux of the buscuit says:

    The GOP says, ‘We are the answer’.
    I can only assume the question was, ‘How can we make life for the average working stiff much, much worse?”

    1. Tom says:

      @ the crux of the biscuit

      That pretty much somes it up! You still don’t hear them mention that they were given complete control of the House, Senate, Whitehouse, and they went a big spending spree from 2000 -2006, and we didn’t hear the same conservatives who are whining now whining back then.

  6. Murph says:

    Just what Iowa needs more corn and manure!

  7. TPAW is all talk says:

    Ha ha, the economics are finaly catching up to the dems. It’s taken decades of dem policies to bring us to the edge. Maybe the GOP candidates aren’t the answer but spending money certainly isn’t either. I can only imagine how all the lib posters here live their pathetic, debt ridden, on the dole lives. The sad part is that you are all in such bad shape you don’t even have a choice but to vote dem even if you don’t agree with the dems.

    1. Reality sucks says:

      Even if they have money–that’s the mind set of a Dem. The country is in deep, beyond what the average person even understands. It really doesn’t matter if the Dems keep up their fight for the good times of old. The checkbook balance is BROKE. They can keep spendin’ like a bailout and safety net is there (i’m talking both government and at home) but there isn’t one. Start saving Dems, or you’re up the river.

      1. TPAW is all talk says:

        So true, people can’t discern the difference between $200,000 and $1m much less a billion and a trillion. How can those same people use the word Fair as in Fair Share then..

        1. Reality sucks says:

          exactly. I was just reading about this obamacare thingamajig that doesn’t look like it’s gonna happen since the courts are taking it on strong. It’s already been voted on and is legislation–that a tax will be added to the top wage earners to pay for this thing. Huh? what is the deficit gonna look like when they pull out all that cash they were counting on. Wish I could answer that but can’t fine the amount. We are lookin at full blown austerity if the dirty dozen can’t figure out some good cuts. You and I both know that there is no chance that these morons are gonna come to agreement on anything.

      2. MIke says:

        Reality sucks- There are many average people who understand the problems this country is facing and know exactly how we got here. Since the Reagan administration deficits have been intentionally driven higher through tax cuts to the rich and ridiculous principals of the Art Laffer curve. George Bush drove up the deficit by starting two unfunded, illegal wars and keeping them off the books. He also gave the drug companies a big payoff through the prescription drug plan. Also during this time the housing boom was financed by banksters and mortgage companies setting up ponzi scheme styled financing by backing loans based on future growth in a hyper unrealistic market. And don’t forget those black boxed derivatives, that created layers of fraudulent financial trading and speculation that brought the whole world economy crashing down. There are ways to fix this mess, but the Republicans would rather have there cake and eat it too! If they backed legislation that brought back the tax cuts to the Clinton era and raised the cap on SS above the $106K max., we would all be in better shape. Instead, we are stuck with people who vote against there own interests, backing Republicans who want to balance it all on the backs of the middle class and take away the benefits like Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, that we have all payed in to! Democrats are not the problem, they are the best solution for this country and benefit the common mans interest versus only the wealthy contributors and those set to destroying the principals and ideas that make this a great country. Wake up idiot!

        1. Reality sucks says:

          You were preaching to the choir ’til you got to the part about the Dems being the solution. Independents are the solution as we soon shall see.

  8. James2 says:

    If you are the answer, what’s the question. I don’t recall asking.

  9. Incredulous1 says:

    “We are the answer”? As I recall, by the end of 2008, the GOP was the problem. But this time they’ll certainly do better – NOT!

    1. Reality sucks says:

      this may sound a little profound…but Bush II was a poster child of Wall Street. Greenspan and Paulson are to blame, I really don’t thing Georgy had a clue. If you’re gonna blame, blame the foundation, not the poster child. Obama is a poster child too ya know. He came in pumping big dreams of changing regulatory policy–until he figured out who his real boss was. And it ain’t us.

      1. Incredulous1 says:

        OK, fair enough.

      2. Tom L says:

        I dont think Michelle has that big a influence in the White House.

  10. Reality sucks says:

    Ron Paul #2!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! only 152 votes between him and Michele the phony. You go Ron Paul—you go!

    1. Mike says:

      Ron Paul has as much chance becoming President as Elvis Presley returning to Las Vegas. His ideas are too radical for his party and a majority of the American population. I wish he would run as an independent because their is no better way to get President Obama back for another 4 years and that is the best assurance of keeping the Republicans in check and balance.

      1. Reality sucks says:

        we shall see, won’t we! Americans have a sneaky way of showing brilliance.

        1. Reality sucks--except if you love Ron Paul says:

          To the rest–sorry I’m in celabratroy mood here. Ron Paul is running as a republican, that’s true….but anyone who has followed him for years knows that he’s a libertarian thru and thru and this is the only way to get it done. He has to do this to be taken seriously and as far as I can tell–it’s too soon–the media is STILL not giving him cred. for taking 2nd with 152 votes as a span! Jese, what does the guy have to do?

  11. Tom L says:

    Gosh, I was waiting on pins and needles whether or not Rick Perry was going to announce his candidacy today……. even though he’s announced that he was going to announce it just about every day this past week since last weekend.

    Funny people them goofy republicans.

  12. Pat says:

    I like Rick Perry because he lambasted the Global Warming zombies for perpetuating their fraud.

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