Bachmann Passes Test Of Iowa's Straw Poll

Less than two months into her campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachman won Saturday's Iowa straw poll. Bachmann won what is considered to be a bellwether event and one measure of a presidential candidate's strength. NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

JOHN YDSTIE, host: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm John Ydstie.

The results of yesterday's Iowa straw poll are in, and Minnesota Republicans are at the center of the news. This morning, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty announced on ABC's "This Week" that he is ending his campaign. Pawlenty was a distant third in the Iowa polling. Another governor, Rick Perry of Texas, officially announced yesterday that he's entering the race. We'll have a report on that in a few moments.

But first, we go to Ames, Iowa, where Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann won the straw poll less than two months into her campaign.

As NPR's Debbie Elliott reports, the straw poll is considered a bellwether event and one measure of a presidential candidate's strength.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT: Nearly 17,000 Iowa voters waited in long lines to cast their straw poll ballots on the campus of Iowa State University.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Single file. Single file, driver's license and your ticket.

ELLIOTT: Rodney Skinner, of Ottumwa, was the first in line. The 61-year-old Vietnam veteran had been waiting for two hours to participate in this Iowa political tradition.

RODNEY SKINNER: We literally decide which way it's going to go.

ELLIOTT: The poll doesn't always pick the winner of next year's Iowa's caucuses, let alone the eventual nominee. But it certainly helps winnow the field. Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn revealed this year's pick.

MATT STRAWN: The winner of the 2011 Iowa straw poll is Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ELLIOTT: Bachmann received more than 4,800 votes.

Representative MICHELE BACHMANN: (Republican, Minnesota) Thank you, guys. God bless you.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: But anyway, God bless you.

BACHMANN: Thank you. Thank you so much.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Thanks for all. You go, girl.

ELLIOTT: She gave credit to her fellow native Iowans when she emerged from her campaign bus, after the vote tally.

BACHMANN: This is the very first step toward taking the White House in 2012.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ELLIOTT: Bachmann's strong finish here is a testament to the grassroots support she has from religious voters, a group she reached out to during her speech yesterday.

BACHMANN: in Iowa, we are social conservative and we will never be ashamed of being social conservative.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ELLIOTT: One cloud on Bachmann's day was Texas Congressman Ron Paul's close second place finish, just 152 votes behind her - less than a percentage point of difference. Paul bowed to the Iowa preference for social issues in his speech yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

Representative RON PAUL: (Republican, Texas): But today, I'm going to emphasize something slightly different from just the cause of liberty, because there is something that precedes liberty. And that is life.

ELLIOTT: Paul supporter Michael DeMay(ph) of Davenport voted in the straw poll for the first time, driven here by his belief that Paul's economic message is what the country needs right now.

MICHAEL DEMAY: Well, I think Ron Paul is, to beg the term, ahead of his time back in 2008. The world has caught up to where Ron is now.

ELLIOTT: Mitt Romney, long considered the national front runner, didn't campaign in the straw poll and finished with a paltry 567 votes. Rick Santorum and Herman Cain were ahead of him, rounding out the fourth and fifth places. Santorum called his effort: The Little Engine That Could Campaign. Cain, meanwhile, appeared to be having the most fun.

HERMAN CAIN: (Republican presidential candidate) (Singing) Ooh-hoo hold on a little while longer, hold on a little while longer. Hold on...

ELLIOTT: Cain belted out this gospel to backed-up by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee on bass.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

CAIN: As they say in the Baptist Church: Let everybody say, amen.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD REPEATEDLY SAYING, AMEN)

ELLIOTT: One candidate who wasn't singing, praying or dishing up food at the Iowa straw poll was Texas Governor Rick Perry, who officially opened his campaign yesterday. His name wasn't even on the ballot. Still, he snagged 713 write-in votes.

Debbie Elliott, NPR News, Ames, Iowa.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: