Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rep. Bachmann wins, Gov. Perry jumps in, Mr. Pawlenty drops out

Wow, it was quite a weekend for Republicans interested in their party's presidential nomination.

The decision by Mr. Perry, the current governor of Texas, to join the race came as no surprise, and he's expected to quickly become one of the "big three" candidates. (The others are Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann.) TIME magazine reports that Mr. Perry's potential as a candidate could pose Mr. Romney with pounding headaches.
With Perry in the race, there is another fiery conservative candidate drenched with Tea Party hot sauce now on the Iowa political menu. Unless the Perry for President campaign blows up on the launch pad — which is indeed possible when a candidate runs on the national stage for the first time — the Texan will give Bachmann a run for her money in Iowa.
Of course, it’s Mitt Romney who now faces a potential nightmare. While a Bachmann victory in the Iowa caucuses would give Romney a two-way race he would almost certainly win, a Perry win there would leave him with a much steeper path to nomination. While Romney should be able to fend off Perry in the famously Texan-doubting state of New Hampshire, the race could be close and Romney might fail to meet sky-high expectations. Romney could also lose moderate Granite State voters to Jon Huntsman, while trying to fight off Perry on the right. If Perry can place a strong second, the race will then move to Perry country in South Carolina. The mega-state of Florida, another place where Perry could do very well, would come after that. In short, if Perry wins Iowa, Romney is in for a long slog.
Anyone who watched Rick Perry destroy Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the Texas gubernatorial primary last year should have no illusions; he knows how to win a GOP primary. Whether Perry can win a general election or not is another matter. Most senior GOP strategists have major concerns about running a twangy Christian conservative Texan as the party’s nominee against even a weakened Barack Obama.
Ms. Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll on Saturday. Symbolic? Yes. Technically meaningless, because no delegates were at stake? Yes. However, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution correctly points up that anyone dismissing her victory is making a mistake.
Bachmann, a Minnesota congresswoman, beat her home-state rival Tim Pawlenty by more than 2-to-1 in the Iowa straw poll, an early test of caucus campaign strength.
Pawlenty, a former two-term Minnesota governor, had put all his chips on a strong showing in the poll. But his distant third-place finish, behind Texas Rep. Ron Paul, prompted Pawlenty to quit the race Sunday morning.
Bachmann, on the other hand, rose sharply to the top of Iowa polls since launching her campaign in June, and made an aggressive push for straw poll support with evangelical pastors and Christian home-school backers. ...
A vocal opponent of the deal reached in Congress to raise the national debt ceiling, Bachmann sought to broaden her appeal to include budget hawks, and noted her tea party backing to project herself as appealing to a range of voters.
"It's a movement coming together. It's a movement of social conservatives, a movement of fiscal conservatives, particularly on the debt ceiling issue," she said.
If the big three indeed are Ms. Bachmann, Mr. Perry and Mr. Romney, then the current outsider is Ron Paul, who finished second in Iowa. The Associated Press notes his supporters remain committed to him, and he to them.

Four years ago, Paul sought the GOP nomination while talking about economic policy, liberty and the Federal Reserve. Since then, the tea party has risen and seized on those issues, and some regard Paul as one of the movement's godfathers.

"The country's bankrupt, and nobody wanted to admit it. And when you're bankrupt, you can't keep spending," Paul said Thursday during a Fox News Channel debate.

He may lack the broad appeal that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney or Texas Gov. Rick Perry are claiming, but Paul's finish Saturday indicated he could compete.

Paul typically does well in such straw polls, which rely on supporters' intensity and organization. His base helped him win straw polls at June's Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans and February's Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, and his followers organize online to ensure strong finishes at any contest they can find.

It is part of their effort to get rid of the notion that Paul is a fringe candidate.

Paul's 2008 campaign came up far short of better organized rivals. This time, his advisers are putting together a more serious effort that taps into voters' frustrations with Washington and the fears about the economy.

His aides are working within the system instead of against it. For instance, Paul's base camp for the Iowa straw poll was at the same location Romney used in 2007. Romney won that straw poll after investing heavily from his deep pockets for the prime real estate.
If it's true that in politics that if you are not being talked about then you are doomed, then for now we can look at the other GOP presidential candidates -- Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum -- and wonder why they don't do what Tim Pawlenty did today and abandon their efforts at securing the party's nomination.

Ah, but it is only August and no one in Iowa, New Hampshire or anywhere else will cast a vote in a caucus or primary for another four months.

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