The Exhibition Season is over

The Ames Straw Poll is over for another hopefully 8 years.  In as much as it is only held when there is a Republican Presidential primary, and we hope that will not be happening again until 2019.  My friend, Renee Hulshof, a Twitterina, and a Missouri political Diva (in a good way) tweeted this after attending the event yesterday:

“I have decided the iowa straw poll is like mo state Lincoln days on steroids crossed with a tailgate party.”  @ReneeHulshof

 Almost 17,000 ballots were cast and including vendors, visitors, curiosity seekers, and the media, the estimates were that about 25,000 were on the campus of Iowa State University in Ames yesterday.  Remarkably, or maybe not:   The ISU and Ames police reported no arrests or incidents.  Congratulations, everyone! 

 As you undoubtedly know, Congresswoman Michele Bachman bettered Congressman Ron Paul by 152 votes to be declared the ‘winner’ of the straw poll.   Gov. Tim Pawlenty was third, and less than 24 hours after the voting began, he dropped out of the Presidential race.

 Sen. Rick Santorum, finished a respectable fourth as his campaign was building momentum after what arguably was the best performance in the debate on the Thursday before the Straw Poll.  It was reported today, that online contributions to the Santorum campaign started coming in after the Thursday night debate and continued through this morning.  Very good for the cash strapped campaign.

 Rick Perry, the non-candidate candidate, who actually announced his candidacy while voting was going on in Ames garnered enough write-in votes to beat Mitt Romney.  Fabulous job by the 527 groups who worked the event on behalf of the Texas governor and helped to get the momentum for his candidacy started.  Romney chose not to take part in the straw poll after spending over $2M  on this event four years ago.  Many Romney people have told me that the national management of the campaign made the fatal mistake of thinking that a straw poll win translates into a caucus victory, but that was not to be as Gov. Mike Huckabee built on the momentum from his 2nd place finish at the 2007 straw poll into an Iowa caucus win four months later.

 As the winner of the Ames Straw Poll, Michele Bachmann has now entered into what the media likes to call the ‘top-tier’ of candidates.  I am not about to start advising the Bachmann campaign, but it is important to point out that even with Reagan advisor Ed Rollins on board, it is a different political climate in 2011 than it was in 1980.  Any gaffe by the candidate is broadcast almost immediately through the internet, 24 hour news channels, and social media.  As I write this tonight, a story has just crossed Twitter that Cong. Bachmann delayed giving her remarks at the Black Hawk County GOP dinner (in her birthplace of Waterloo, IA) because she did not want to appear on stage with Gov. Rick Perry and her staff wanted the lighting in the room changed.   Can you say “Diva” (in a bad way this time)?

 Mitt Romney has not been heard except to make a statement on the departure of Gov. Pawlenty.  Gov. Perry has a campaign bus (shazam–how did that happen so fast?).  Sen. Santorum is in John Paul Jones mode-“We have just begun to fight”.  And Michele Bachmann, well she is  showing up late to events, making demands and the rounds as she continues to almost beg the media to take her seriously.

 It appears that there are four viable candidates to compete in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries which follow Iowa in a short time period. Bachmann, Perry, Romney, and Santorum.  The Presidential campaign is out of the exhibition season and everything counts from this moment on.

 The Iowa Straw Poll did what it was designed to do:  raise money for the Iowa GOP and winnow the field.    Gov. Pawlenty left first, just wondering who will follow and when.  Stay tuned.

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