The Republican presidential field shifted over the weekend, making for a much more competitive race.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann's convincing win in the Iowa Straw Poll cemented her status as a serious candidate for president. Up to now she has been polling well but there were those who attributed this to some kind of fluke. Her victory at Ames showed she can, in fact, put boots on the ground and get people to turn out to support her.
That's the good news. And it means she will be able to attract even more volunteers and raise more money going forward. The bad news is that it means she will now be subject to closer scrutiny by the media and from her opponents in the primary. Having proven she can run with "the big dogs" she will now be treated like one. [See photos of Bachmann.]
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, on the other hand, has left the race following a less-than-spectacular third place finish in the same poll.
Pawlenty had put a lot on the line in the straw poll. It was a "make or break" moment for him—and it broke him.
The problem for his campaign seemed to have been, from the start that he wanted to position himself as the "conservative" alternative to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; something that is fine in theory but somewhat more difficult to execute in fact. Pawlenty's decision not to engage the former Massachusetts governor on the issue of "Obomneycare" in the New Hampshire debate was just one example of several in which he was unable to make the contrast work—in no small part because, with so many candidates vying for the GOP nomination, it hasn't become a two-man race. [Read Scott Galupo: Tim Pawlenty's Fatal Flaw is Rick Perry's Strength]
The biggest change is Texas Gov. Rick Perry's entry into the race.
Perry is the 900-lb. gorilla. A successful, multi-term governor of a major state, he has a conservative record as a tax cutter and a job creator that stands in stark contrast to the accomplishments, not only of the other Republicans in the race but to President Barack Obama himself. [See who's in and out of the GOP presidential field.]
It remains to be seen whether Perry will catch fire with the GOP primary electorate—but all indications are, the result in Ames notwithstanding, that they are still looking for the candidate they can full-heartedly support. As of Saturday it's a whole new race.