Ames Straw Poll Could Legitimize Bachmann, Upset Romney

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Representative Michele Bachmann is largely believed to be the frontrunner going into Iowa’s straw poll in Ames, but the poll’s results could have an important impact all across the GOP Presidential race.

Saturday’s straw poll in Ames, Iowa, and the Fox News-hosted debate on the Thursday preceding it are certain to shake up the field of candidates seeking the 2012 Republican Presidential nod. While the widely regarded GOP frontrunner, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, is not participating in the poll, whoever wins is certain to emerge as his main opponent. And many people believe that emerging victor will be Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.).

“She is clearly the favorite right now, but she faces a real test in Thursday’s pre-Straw Poll debate hosted by Fox News,” read a post by Conservative Iowa talk radio host Steve Deace, predicting that Bachmann will win the straw poll with 21 percent of the vote. “Barring journalistic malfeasance, she’s going to be asked about signing the controversial FAMiLY LEADER marriage pledge, as well as her husband working to deliver those ensnared by homosexuality via Christian counseling… How she responds to that questioning could very well determine Saturday’s results.”

Bachmann “is expected to win the straw poll,” former Iowa State GOP Chairman Richard Schwarm told POLITICO. “She’s almost at a dangerous level where she could win, but still not win big enough,” he said.

While Romney is not participating in the straw poll directly, he has been campaigning in Iowa and will participate in Thursday’s debate. He won the last Ames straw poll by a landslide, but it ultimately didn’t pay off in 2008. This could be why his campaign is avoiding expensive straw polls altogether. Still, if the right candidate finished with a big enough lead at Ames, he or she could quickly close the gap with Romney.

Romney’s frontrunner status “could change after a few shots are fired, if there’s some mistake, some stumble,” Ken Khachigian, a longtime GOP activist and former adviser to Ronald Reagan told the Los Angeles Times. “While I think he’s built up some amount of inoculation against attacks, I don’t think you have a very forgiving electorate, so that if you have one or two miscues and the emergence of someone who seems strikingly articulate or shines in a debate… Romney could easily go down pretty quickly.”

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