Bachmann wins in Ames but Perry is the story

Today’s most important political development within the Republican party was not Michele Bachmann’s victory in the Ames Straw Poll, or Ron Paul’s second place, or the fact that Tim Pawlenty came in a distant third and might have to throw in the towel, but that Texas governor Rick Perry announced that he is running.

The announcement came just hours before the poll in Ames. Its immediate effect was 718 write-in votes for Perry, more than the race’s favorite up to now, Mitt Romney.

Perry’s announcement at a conservative bloggers’ conference in Charleston, South Carolina, was almost as if George W. Bush — Perry’s predecessor as governor — had made a comeback, except that Perry is more Texas, more conservative, more God and country. He’s not my cup of tea, for sure.

Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky sees the Republican field as wide open and Perry as an instant front runner. His nomination could lead to a big battle between Obama and Perry in the culture war about the two Americas.

Perry’s start today must have been encouraging, and the weak field of Republican candidates speaks in Perry’s favor. But the race is long.

Here is how the 17,000 voted in Ames today:

Michele Bachmann 4,823 votes; Ron Paul 4,671; Tim Pawlenty 2,293; Rick Santorum 1,657; Herbert Cain 1,456; Rick Perry 718; Mitt Romney 567; Newt Gingrich 385; Jon Huntsman 69; and Thad McCotter 35.

Michele Bachmann’s victory in Ames did not come as a surprise. Neither did Ron Paul’s second place. Enthusiastic and motivated followers and a good organization can do wonders for a candidate this early in the campaign. And both have that. Still, their appeal is too narrow and too extreme right for neither tea party favorite Bachmann nor libertarian Paul to win the Republican nomination.

The Ames Straw Poll has in previous years provided some guidance as to who will ultimately capture the Republican nomination. But not this year. Or maybe Rick Perry’s 718 votes point the way?

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