The dynamics of the 2012 presidential race have completely changed in less than a week thanks to the Ames Straw Poll and Governor Rick Perry’s entrance into the race.
This time last week, Mitt Romney was clearly the frontrunner nationwide for the nomination. Michele Bachmann appeared to be his biggest threat, with surging support from tea party activists and socially conservative evangelicals. Tim Pawlenty was gearing up for a crucial weekend, which would test his candidacy. Meanwhile, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Herman Cain were aiming to stand out in the debate and pull off strong showings in the straw poll.
Predictably, the top spot in the straw poll went to Michele Bachmann while Ron Paul surprised critics by claiming second place, less than two hundred votes behind Bachmann. In a death knell for his campaign, Pawlenty took a meager third. After spending considerable time and resources in Iowa, Pawlenty’s disappointing showing ultimately caused him to withdraw from the race on Sunday. Santorum and Cain lauded their respective fourth and fifth place finishes as indicators their campaigns are on track.
Usually a test of candidates’ viability and organizational strength, the Ames Straw Poll this year was largely overshadowing by Governor Perry, who waited in the wings to announce his candidacy until the opportune moment. Raining on the other candidates’ parade, Perry’s announcement stole considerable media coverage from the straw poll participants.
Since Perry’s entrance, the rest of the field has struggled to garner media attention. The blogosphere and Twitter have been ablaze with posts and tweets about Perry. The Washington Post analyzed the buzz of each of the top candidates on the web using a Topsy, a real-time search engine indexing Twitter data. Perry reached a four-day high of 56,398 mentions on Tuesday. Bachmann’s peak was 38,000 mentions on Saturday following her straw poll win. Romney barely registered, reaching his peak with 5,794 mentions on Saturday.
The first major polling following Perry’s entrance also indicates the race has dramatically changed. Romney lost his first place slot to Perry and Bachmann was bumped down to third. Rasmussen Polling found Perry leading with 29%, Romney with 18% and Bachmann was 13%. Despite a second place finish at Ames, Paul only claimed 9%. Cain followed with 6% and Gingrich registered 5%. Santorum and Huntsman each claimed a mere 1%. It should also be noted that 16% of those surveyed still remained undecided.
On a very positive note, all the major GOP candidates are pro-life. The National Right to Life Committee released a comparison piece of the candidates’ positions on key pro-life issues like taxpayer funding of abortion, Obamacare, Planned Parenthood funding and Roe vs. Wade. Governor Perry’s addition to the race has thrown another strong pro-life record into the mix.
Just this year, Governor Perry signed into law a historic informed consent bill to allow pregnant women to view an ultrasound prior to an abortion and approved a budget, which denied state funding to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. Upon the announcement of his presidential bid, NARAL President Nancy Keenan slammed Perry, asserting, “Gov. Perry’s choice-related actions as governor of Texas are dominated by anti-choice positions.”
Governor Perry’s pro-life stance has earned the praise of Texas Right to Life, the state’s largest pro-life organization. Executive director Elizabeth Graham told LifeNews.com, “Governor Rick Perry has always championed the pro-life cause, tirelessly advocating for the sanctity of innocent human life in numerous ways.
Governor Perry has worked alongside Texas Right to Life, helping shepherd our pro-life bills and eagerly supporting our measures. As governor of Texas, he has intervened to stop anti-life legislation on a number of occasions, and he has helped clear obstacles when necessary.”
While Governor Perry may be leading in national polls and dominating the headlines, the race is far from over. A poll for the New Hampshire Journal showed that in New Hampshire, a key early primary state, Romney still holds a commanding lead, besting Perry by 18 points. (36%-18%) Bachmann finished in fourth with 10%. Polling nationwide appears to be indicating we’re headed for a Perry-Romney showdown for the nomination.
Contrary to speculation fueled by statements by Karl Rove and various bloggers, it appears the GOP field is set. On Tuesday, the media was ablaze with rumors of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan jumping into the race. And Wednesday, false reports abounded regarding New Jersey Governor Chris Christie mulling a bid. Aides to both have denied the rumors. Neither Ryan nor Christie is expected to enter the race. The same goes for Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani, who both appear to have decided to sit out the 2012 race.