The tea-party movement has changed the political landscape across America and is continuing to shake up politics as we know it. While traditional political events such as the Iowa straw poll have been important in the past, this election will be won by the candidate who addresses forcefully and effectively the economic woes facing America.
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has been attentive to the Tea Party and the fiscal issues that the movement has raised for the last two and a half years, and that is a big part of her rise in politics — she is the first woman and the first member of the House to ever win the Iowa straw poll. Congratulations to her on an impressive showing.
While this gives congresswoman Bachmann strong momentum for her campaign, not all of the major candidates participated in this straw poll, so the real test will come when voters are actually casting their ballots in the early caucus and primary states. The upcoming Tea Party Express national tour and debate on September 12 will be an important milestone in winning tea-party support, which will be necessary for any Republican who hopes to defeat Pres. Barack Obama.
At its core, Ames is more about the Iowa Republican party, the media, and a mock exercise in mobilization for campaigns than anything substantively political. If 30 years of political history have taught us anything, it’s that Ames isn’t determinative when it comes to indicating the party’s nominee.
Last week, it became increasingly clear that three candidates stood a decent chance of winning the straw poll. As it happens, these candidates in fact topped the results of that straw poll. As it also happens, these candidates have virtually no chance of winning the Republican presidential nomination next year.
Ames is about the ability to drive activists to a single highly attended and fun event on a single weekend day in the summertime. In order to win, candidates need one of three things: a highly motivated cadre of activists who are willing to do just about anything in order to get their candidate visibility (in this case, Ron Paul supporters); excited base members who are trying to catch lightning in a bottle (Bachmann supporters); or a professional team that can mobilize individuals for a seasoned, mainstream pol.
— Andrew Langer is president of the Institute for Liberty, a Washington, D.C.–based advocacy organization.
The Ames Straw Poll measures two factors: intensity of support on the part of voters and focus by the candidates. In Iowa. Those candidates do best who spend time and money on the straw-poll contest — which brings no delegates — and who have fervent supporters willing to spend time getting to and voting in the straw poll.
Bachmann, Ron Paul, Pawlenty, Santorum, and Herman Cain all put time and effort into the straw poll. The results are a good way to measure candidate focus and voter intensity of support. In Iowa. A candidate can, however, focus on the straw poll and still lack supporters willing to put up with a day spent voting.
One notes that Romney and Perry did not put in the time and money, and pulled 567 and 718 votes respectively, compared with Bachmann’s 4,823, Ron Paul’s 4,671, and Pawlenty’s 2,293.
Bachmann won the most votes, not just the most headlines. Ron Paul missed winning by a whisker (152 votes) and demonstrated that he has devoted followers and was not just a one-hit wonder in 2008. Pawlenty was 2,600 votes short of a “stunning upset” and arguably outperformed expectations. Or didn’t. Santorum and Cain had respectable votes but failed to “surprise” the media with stronger showings.