I thought Toby Harnden had an excellent analysis of all the events Friday. He is the US Editor for the UK Daily Telegraph. Consider his 10 things to take away from Ames; What Michele Bachmann’s win means:
1. Michele Bachmann is now in the top tier of candidates, which comprises Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and the Minnesota congresswoman. Let’s not get carried away – in some respects this was the situation a week ago. Ames cemented a few trends rather than changing the dynamic of the race. Winning the Iowa caucuses does not mean winning the GOP nomination. And winning the Ames Straw Poll doesn’t mean winning the caucuses. A lot of the significance attached to Ames is because there were so many journalists here. So a little perspective is needed on the significance of the 16,892 ballots cast.
Outside the top three, it is hard to see how any other candidate can win the Republican nomination.
3. Tim Pawlenty’s campaign is now likely to die a slow death, with fundraising dropping off and recriminations beginning. Pawlenty has been very unlucky in some ways but the fact that he ran a good, well-disciplined Ames straw poll campaign makes things even worse for him now.
4. Perry entered the race with a strong speech in Charleston and a visit to New Hampshire. Word is the logistics were near flawless – impressive on day one of a campaign. Perry supporters in Iowa mounted a proper effort to get him write-in votes and that paid off – 718 for a man not on the ballot or in the race when voting began is noteworthy. His candidacy is likely to be a game changer but the next two weeks will be crucial. He will be scrutinised very heavily and he needs to deliver.
5. Ron Paul came a very close second. He is an important voice in American politics but he is 75, way outside the mainstream of the Republican party on foreign policy and will not be the nominee.
6. Romney’s decision not to compete at Ames was a clever one. He would almost certainly have lost to Bachmann, who was born in Iowa, and probably Ron Paul too. By staying out, he emerged unscathed. But now that Perry is in the race Romney cannot maintain his front runner status by staying above the fray and emerging from contests unscathed. The coming weeks will be a real test for him.
7. The battle is now on for Romney, in particular, to define Perry in order to stop the momentum he will gain from a good announcement and the inevitabe excitement over a new face. Romney will try to portray Perry as a career politician at a time when a businessman and outsider is needed. This will be tough, however, because of Perry’s life story, his Tea Party credibility and the fact he’s a Texan. And, let’s face it, Romney’s an unlikely outsider.
8. It’s hard to see how Jon Huntsman’s candidacy continues.
9. Bachmann may have won Ames but Perry’s entry into the race could make the day a net loss in terms of her chances of actually winning the nomination. Perry is a strong evangelical from a humble background who is viscerally anti-Washington and a natural Tea Party candidate. All of that eats into Bachmann’s support.
10. Sarah Palin received less than one percent of the vote. The law of diminishing returns now seems to be applying to her teasing appearances in between periods of going dark. It hard to imagine that she will really decide to run in 2012 now that Perry’s in – and even harder to see her having a serious chance of winning the nomination.
His comments about Sarah Palin’s chances are only speculation. We have no good way to evaluate her decision let alone what it will mean.
Notice in point 9, Mr. Harnden says, “. . . could make the day a net loss . . .” He did not say it would. I agree. You may know that Michele Bachmann is my friend. There is no doubt, Perry candidacy will make her better and her operation is near flawless. Governor Romney is the front runner. He could stumble and fade. Assuming he does not, I believe Governor Perry and Congresswoman Bachmann will be strengthened by the others presence. They actually need each other. All three know that only one will prevail.
Thoughts about (my former) Governor, Tim Pawlenty: He is being written off by virtually every pundit. He is a gifted and good man. In my view, he was the best governor in Minnesota history. It saddened me to see him stoop to the depths he did in the debate as he lashed out at Representative Bachmann. That performance will, unfortunately, remain a stain on his record.
Some Minnesota commentators, in the tank for Governor Pawlenty, have also behaved like spoiled brats or worse; maybe even like Barak Obama.