Iowa was the place to be this weekend for GOP 2012 contenders. Saturday, the Ames Straw Poll brought in many candidates’ most ardent backers to mingle with campaigns and show their support in a vote. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann won the nonbinding poll, pushing former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty out of the race and affirming her status in the top tier of candidates. As she was driving Pawlenty from the race, Texas Gov. Rick Perry was entering it. After making the official announcement in South Carolina Saturday, Perry joined his Republican competition in Iowa speaking at a party fundraising event in Bachmann’s hometown of Waterloo on Sunday. Bachmann was also in attendance but the two candidates for the most part ignored each other. [Read Galupo: Pawlenty's Flaw Is Perry's Strength.]
Perry’s entrance into the race and Bachmann’s straw poll win shifts the field for the front-runner, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, as Ken Walsh notes, narrowing the competition for GOP nomination to a three-person race. Romney did not actively compete in the Ames Straw Poll and compared to other candidates, he has spent much more of the last few weeks in other important primary states like New Hampshire and Florida. (He did finally travel to Iowa last Wednesday, only to make Thursday's "Corporations are people" gaffe that critics assert prove him to be out of touch). [See a collection of political cartoons on the GOP hopefuls.]
Perry and Bachmann both are being called the "social conservative" candidates. Bachmann is getting more media attention than ever between her Ames Straw Poll win and her controversial Newsweek cover. As Scott Galupo argues on the Thomas Jefferson Street blog, Perry has an executive record as governor in addition to his strong social values: "Unlike any other Republican candidate, Perry can both tout a record of job-creation and pray for rain." Romney, on the other hand, has primarily played up his economic experience, stressing his 25 years as a successful businessman. He has attracted the criticism of social conservatives for his once prochoice stance and his refusal to sign a prolife pledge signed by many of the other candidates. If Bachmann’s and Perry’s campaigns continue to pick up steam, either could challenge Romney—considered the more "mainstream" candidate—for frontrunner status, especially as the Iowa caucus tends to favor conservative social values.
What do you think? Will Romney be able to beat his social conservative challengers, Bachmann and Perry, for the Republican nomination? Vote in our poll and comment below.
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