Contenders: Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Bachmann
With Ames Poll Over, Three Contenders Rise Above The Pack In Nomination Fight Against Front-Runner Romney
Gov. Rick Perry of Texas in his official photo.
By John Monahan
Modern Times Magazine
Aug. 17, 2011 — The Ames Straw Poll has never been a good indicator of who would win the presidency — or the republican nomination for that matter — but it sure is a great weekend to make a case for relevancy.
U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann — the tea party darling from Minnesota — took the crown with 4,823 votes. Rep. Ron Paul almost managed to win his first republican presidential nominating contest but came up about 150 votes short with a total of 4,671.
But that sneaky guy from Texas — Gov. Rick Perry — still managed to be the story of the weekend.
Perry’s political maneuvering during Ames weekend was masterful and definitely delivered a shot across the bow to his serious competitors: Paul, Bachmann, and of course, front runner Mitt Romney. Perry was able to dominate the weekend talk while not having to invest somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000 to win in Ames.
Free publicity — a.k.a. the use of ‘spin’ — is invaluable and is especially so in presidential politics for when a candidate controls the discussion, the media and people typically follow.
The race for the nomination is all about relevancy and although Ames has a poor record of predicting future winners, it is nearly dead on in predicting who is relevant. Bachmann proved she was relevant and can officially be anointed as the first viable, female republican presidential candidate.
Paul gained big because he came so darn close. He was terribly disappointed by the results in the Ames Straw Poll in 2008 and if he did not show that he could improve this time, he would have given big media another excuse to ignore him. He was only 153 votes short of winning his first republican nomination contest. Until he wins something, big media will always ignore him. Winners rule in politics, after all.
Where Perry, Paul and Bachmann gained relevance last weekend, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty lost his. An establishment candidate like Pawlenty realized this was not the year. He only garnered 2,293 votes in finishing third behind Paul and Bachmann — an unacceptable result with all of the time and money he had spent in the state.
Overall, though, Pawlenty probably learned a lot about the differences between running a state campaign for governor and a national race for president. Most importantly, though, he learned that it was time for him to quit — which he did, of course, the day after the Ames Straw Poll.
If he was wise, Newt Gingrich would be the next to bow out. He only garnered 328 votes. The former republican whiz kid is so out of touch and out of step with the contemporary republican party, it is bewildering he has lasted this long. The truth is, he missed his chance. He might have had a shot in 1996 or 2000.
Not to be forgotten is former senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum. While he was able to hold-off Herman Cain for fourth behind Pawlenty, it is unlikely that he will gain from Pawlenty’s departure. Santorum is not headed for an exit yet but is not yet relevant.
The race for the republican presidential nomination is looking more and more like a four horse race with Romney the front runner being chased by hard chargers Perry, Bachmann and Paul. These are the candidates that will represent the party for the next six months and it is only fitting since they each represent a portion of the republican electorate.
Perry and Bachmann share the evangelical base, Paul the libertarian base and Romney the corporate base. All four of them represent the tea party base. No republican would dare oppose the tea party right now.
Romney will undoubtedly face further challenges because of his Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints affiliation. Evangelicals have a hard time voting for Mormons. Sure, he won a governorship in Massachusetts and his father won in Michigan despite their religious backgrounds, but that might not have happened in Alabama or Mississippi — both of which were captured by Mike Huckabee in 2008.
Bachmann will continue to have to hurdle over the gender issue. Perry’s introduction into the race hurts her because she was the only the evangelical candidate. It will be interesting to see how having a male evangelical in the race erodes her support.
Paul faces an uphill climb because many of his policies — like discarding the federal reserve system and legalizing drugs — would have a hard time passing even if he could get enough votes to get elected. Evangelicals, though, don’t like him because of drug legalization and other moral stands. Corporate backers don’t like him because he would threaten the current economic system that profits them multi-millions.
Perry faces the Huckabee factor — he is too Christian for corporate America and most of the country outside of the South. But whether he is ready for the nomination or not, he is definitely relevant, as are Bachmann, Paul and Romney.
With her win and his announcement, Bachmann and Perry won the first real battle for votes in the race for the 2011 republican presidential nomination. But it is just the first battle and there will be several more skirmishes.
The war has just begun.
John Monahan is a freelance writer living in Connecticut.