The debate held in Ames, Iowa on Thursday ultimately led up to the straw poll that occurred two days later. During this event, the majority of the candidates (unless they skipped the event) attended the event and gave speeches, then waited to see how the attendees would vote. All these attendees needed was a $30 ticket and to vote, they needed to be eighteen by November 2012, which means anybody born on November 6, 1994 or earlier could vote. They also needed to be from Iowa, which is a given, since that's where the first caucus is held. With an intense race already in the works, the straw poll had a say in how things are looking.
Michele Bachmann won the poll with close to 29% of the vote. Ron Paul followed in second place by just 152 votes, or 28% of the vote. To be exact, he was just 0.9% behind Bachmann. Tim Pawlenty finished in a distant third with close to 14% of the vote, Rick Santorum followed with 10%, and Herman Cain took 9%. Receiving under 5% were Rick Perry (a write-in), Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Thaddeus McCotter, and several other write-in options. With the exception of McCotter, the others chose to skip the straw poll. Romney and Huntsman have already stated that they will be putting more of their time and effort into the New Hampshire primary.
Tim Pawlenty withdrew from the presidential race the next day after a distant third place finish. Going into the race, Iowa was going to be a battleground for both Bachmann and Pawlenty. Since both are from Minnesota, it came down to which of the candidates was most likely to stick out. In this case, it was Bachmann. I figured that this was going to be make or break for Pawlenty and his finish in the straw poll was going to have an impact on whether or not he would stay in the race. Rick Santorum looks like the only other candidate who put a lot into Iowa and would be a candidate that would withdraw due to a poor showing. At this point, though, it looks like Santorum will be fighting for his piece of the pie known as the Iowa Caucus. To me, Pawlenty seemed like a typical politician who was following the "Anti-Obama train" and had little to offer otherwise. His performance at the debate was poor and it cost him his spot in the presidential race.
The media and many other experts project that there are three frontrunners in the 2012 Presidential race: Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry. While they demonstrate a fine point, Ron Paul should not be counted out at all. Paul is the contrast as to the Republican status quo. He agrees with the fact that we need to rebuild America, but he contrasts on social issues and foreign policy. Many say that he has no chance to win, but that's not necessarily true. He currently has three straw polls to his credit for this cycle (CPAC, Republican Liberty Caucus Of California, and Republican Leadership Conference Of New Orleans, Louisiana), and while they don't determine the outcome in the primaries, they paint a picture as to the views of the voters. Bachmann beat Paul by the skin of her teeth in the Ames Straw Poll, and I feel that despite the fact the media has continued to look him over, Ron Paul should be really happy with his numbers (out 16,892 total votes cast). Paul also won 10% of the vote and the majority of one county in the Iowa Caucus back in 2008, which I feel will be a bigger number in 2012. However, his followers have to go out and vote. This is more than a reality show competition, this is actual reality. Herman Cain can also come out as a dark horse candidate, but he is going to have to gain some more recognition in order to go the distance.
The race will continue to become grittier as the months go on. We will just have to see how much of a battle Romney, Bachmann, and Perry fight out in the upcoming months, and whether or not candidates such as Paul or Cain will be able to build on their dark horse candidacies. The next debate will be held at the Ronald Reagan Library on September 7th, and after the debate in Ames Iowa, seeing the candidates duke it out with their views with only get more exciting.