The Ames Straw poll takes place this week, with a pre-straw poll debate hosted by Fox News on Thursday. With front-runner Mitt Romney taking a pass on Ames the straw poll has taken on great significance for Tim Pawlenty, who has invested heavily in an Iowa ground game that appears to be making progress. Iowa front runner Michelle Bachmann appears less organized, but still better placed to win the event based on crowd enthusiasm and polling. Ron Paul is pushing hard as well, looking to finish in the top three. And Texas Governor Rick Perry appears poised to enter the race, although his name was left off the Ames straw poll ballot. (Sarah Palin was also left off.) With Perry coming in Rasmussen has done some new Iowa polling:
The first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Iowa’s Likely Caucus Participants shows that Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann attracts 22% support, while former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney earn 21%. Just slightly behind is Texas Congressman Ron Paul at 16%, followed by Texas Governor Rick Perry at 12% and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty at 11%.
While Perry will not be on Ames ballot his entry will further marginalize Pawlenty, who will not be able to sustain a fifth place finish in the regular Iowa caucuses. I think he finishes in the top four in Ames, but that may well put him on life support. Pawlenty has driven the only strategy available to him, which is to downplay expectations while pouring money and organization into catching Bachmann by surprise at Ames. If he succeeds he will get a big media bump, and new life. Old pro Ed Rollins over at Team Bachmann is working very hard to make sure that does not happen. The attached Fox video shows just where Pawlenty is training his fire: right on Bachmann. Predictions?
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