Iowa A Virtual Tie For Romney, Decisive For Bachmann

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum finished virtually even in Iowa's caucuses Tuesday, but after Rep. Michele Bachmann's sixth-place finish, she announced Wednesday that she is suspending her campaign. For more on the GOP race and the next contest — Tuesday's New Hampshire primary — Linda Wertheimer talks with NPR's Brian Naylor, who's in the city of Manchester.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

It was a virtual tie in Iowa between Romney and Santorum, but the Iowa caucuses were decisive in another way: thinning the crop of candidates. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, after finishing a poor sixth in Iowa, announced just minutes ago that she is suspending her campaign.

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REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN: And so last night, the people of Iowa spoke with a very clear voice. And so I have decided to stand aside.

WERTHEIMER: Rick Perry has returned to his home state of Texas to consider his next moves after finishing fifth. His followers say he has tweeted his intention to continue. For more on GOP race and the next contest, next Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, we turn to NPR's Brian Naylor, who's in the city of Manchester. Good morning, Brian.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Good morning, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: So what do you think Bachmann's departure might mean for the race? Will it have any kind of effect in New Hampshire?

NAYLOR: Well, I'm hard-pressed to see how it does. She finished so poorly in Iowa, which would have been her, you know, her strongest state, because there are so many evangelical voters in Iowa. There's not this...

WERTHEIMER: And it is the state where she was born, of course.

NAYLOR: And that's where she was born. That's right. And she toured all 99 counties. But the electorate, the Republican electorate in New Hampshire is much different. You don't have that evangelical base. It's not as socially conservative. And so it's not as though there were a lot of her supporters who are now suddenly released to back other candidates. So I really think the impact in the state will be rather minimal.

WERTHEIMER: Now, what about Mr. Romney? He's the front-runner, but what does Santorum's second-place finish do for his prospects, you think?

NAYLOR: I think that Mitt Romney really doesn't have to worry very much about New Hampshire and about Rick Santorum in New Hampshire. I think this is really a race to see who finishes second behind Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, and perhaps Santorum can do that. He's now got a little bit of momentum behind him. But again, like Bachmann, he appeals to part of the Republican base, the evangelical voters, voters who are concerned about gay rights and about, you know, same-sex marriage and about abortion. And those voters are not a big part of the Republican base in New Hampshire.

So, again, it's going to be tough for him to pick up much support. And people I talk to kind of wonder: Who is this guy? You know, there's not - Rick Santorum has been out of the public eye for a while. He's not had the money to run any ads in New Hampshire. So he's got a lot of ground to make up if he hopes to finish strong here.

WERTHEIMER: But I would imagine that Ron Paul's prospects in New Hampshire would be rather better. Does his campaign have a significant presence there?

NAYLOR: It does, from what I've been able to see in the short time I've been up here. There are a lot of signs, and we know that he's got money. He's got ads on the air. And he's got, you know, kind of his base. He's got the young voters supporting him. And also, you know, this is a state where the license plate reads: Live free or die. And that's the kind of sentiment, I think, that Ron Paul has been able to tap into across the country. And I think that this is probably where he's going to make his strongest stand, I'm just guessing. He certainly probably will finish at the top of the second tier in New Hampshire.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's Brian Naylor, reporting from Manchester, New Hampshire. Brian, thank you. Michele Bachmann has withdrawn from the race, put her campaign on hold.

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