What was the meaning of the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa Saturday? In terms of the big picture, essentially nothing.
The presumptive frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination and winner of the 2007 straw poll, Mitt Romney, didn't even compete. Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who entered the race Saturday and had polling numbers near Romney's even before entering the race, also didn't compete in the straw poll.
That doesn't mean that the win won't help to further energize Rep. Michele Bachmann who came in first.
But her charisma, her fundamentalist Christianity, her Iowa connection (she spent part of her early life there) and being from neighboring Minnesota all conspired to give her certain advantages with the social conservatives who powered her to victory.
So she was expected to do well and did. It's still difficult to see how she gets past Romney and Perry to the nomination.
The Iowa caucuses in February will be a different matter since, presumably, Romney and Perry will make a full push to win that contest.
Also, while the Ames Straw Poll has occasionally aligned with the eventual winner of the nomination, it hasn't always. George H.W. Bush won it in 1979 but Ronald Reagan won the nomination. Preacher Pat Robertson won it it 1987 and also didn't win the nomination. Same for Romney in 2007. So it's definitely not a reliable predictor.
The straw poll results actually did likely have serious consequences for Tim Pawlenty. The former Minnesota governor reportedly spent big to make a statement in the straw poll, about $1 million according to some reports.
Despite all that, he still came in behind Paul and not by a little. He's also been far back in national polls.
With Perry now in the race with his strong appeal to fiscal and social conservatives as well as Tea Party voters, Pawlenty will likely find himself even further back in the pack.
It leaves Pawlenty in a difficult spot, having to ask himself just how much further he can go. Money-raising is likely to be an even bigger problem now for him.
Pawlenty's campaign issued a message congratulating Bachmann and saying his campaign was headed to the next phase, including visits to New Hampshire and South Carolina, early primary states: "I need your support to continue the journey," was his message to voters.
It was a brave message. But presidential nominations aren't won on courage alone. It takes money and a credible path to victory and Saturday's Iowa results hurt him in reaching either of those two goals.