Romney, Bachmann Nearly Tied In New Iowa Poll

The first Des Moines Register poll is out.

Right now at least, the Republican race in Iowa is a race between Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann sit atop the standings in the year’s first Des Moines Register Iowa Poll on the Republican presidential field.

Romney, the national front-runner and a familiar face in Iowa after his 2008 presidential run, attracts support from 23 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers. Bachmann, who will officially kick off her campaign in Iowa on Monday, nearly matches him, with 22 percent.

“She’s up there as a real competitor and a real contender,” said Republican pollster Randy Gutermuth, who is unaffiliated with any of the presidential candidates. “This would indicate that she’s going to be a real player in Iowa.”

Former Godfather’s CEO Herman Cain, who has never held public office but has found a following among tea party supporters, comes in third, with 10 percent.

The other candidates tested register in single digits: former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, 7 percent each; former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, 6 percent; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, 4 percent; and former Utah Gov. and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, 2 percent.

Bachmann’s strength, even before she formally starts campaigning, isn’t entirely surprising. As I’ve noted before, Bachmann has personal ties to Iowa having been born there, and is a good fit with the social conservatives and evangelicals that make up a large segment of the Iowa Republican Party. Additionally, she tends to gather around her supporters who are strongly committed, exactly the kind of people you need to show up at a caucus on a cold day in February 2012.

As for the other candidates, the only one who is even remotely competitive right now is Herman Cain, but person who really ought to worry about these poll results is Tim Pawlenty:

Pawlenty has spent 26 days in Iowa during this election cycle, has hired an A-list team of Iowa campaign operatives and was the first major candidate to air television ads in Iowa.

“If I were the Pawlenty camp, I would be enormously concerned about this poll,” said Jennifer Duffy of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

To say the least. A strong showing in Iowa, if not an outright win, is absolutely essential for Pawlenty otherwise his campaign is likely to die before Super Tuesday. At this rate though, weak poll numbers both nationally and in Iowa show that he still hasn’t succeeded in breaking through to voters. The one group that’s sure to notice that now are fundraisers and top GOP contributors, and there are already rumors that the Pawlenty campaign is nearly broke. If T-Paw continues to disappoint, then money is likely to dry up and go to other candidates. If Rick Perry gets in the race, then Pawlenty could be as good as dead.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about these results is the strength of Mitt Romney. Romney lost Iowa to Mike Huckabee in 2008 and has already announced that he will not be participating in the Ames Straw Poll in August. Although Romney has denied that his campaign is “skipping” Iowa altogether, they aren’t exactly giving it top priority either. Will that change now that Romney has garner the support of nearly a quarter of likely caucus goers?

Andrew Malcom at L.A. Times Top of the Ticket adds this about the poll:

Bachmann will appear on two of the Sunday morning talk shows. And then formally launch her run for the Republican nomination Monday in Iowa. After, she’ll do the same in New Hampshire and South Carolina, three early states that have historically played major roles in deciding the nominees of both parties.

On Tuesday, no doubt by coincidence, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will be in Iowa to campaign for — wait for it — the new documentary movie about her life, “The Undefeated.” The premiere that day is already sold out. Palin has not indicated her decision about a 2012 race, but too much delay this summer could make her decision irrelevant. The poll reported no numbers for Palin.

Republican ex-Sen. Rick Santorum (4%) will also be wandering around Iowa this coming week, along with Rep. Ron Paul (7%) and Newt Gingrich (7%). Even President Obama, who is not seeking the Republican nomination, will visit Iowa on Tuesday to talk more about creating jobs.

Ex-Gov. Jon Huntsman (2%) has indicated he will not be making a major effort in the Hawkeye state. Presumed GOP front-runner Romney, who finished second there to Mike Huckabee in the 2008 caucuses, can’t appear to be writing off Iowa. But he’ll focus on his homefield advantage in New Hampshire.

And, most bizarrely, or perhaps not, the hard-core Palin supporters are mad because she isn’t included in the poll:

Ann Selzer is now the third pollster to exclude Governor Palin from their polling. Scott Rasmussen and Dick Morris did it earlier this week. Excluding Palin’s name from polling strikes me as another way to pound the narrative into Republican voters’ minds that the Governor is not running and unfortunately, only around a quarter of Republicans have been strong enough to fight the narrative.

I’ll admit that excluding her name from polling is a good way to prevent Palin from gaining momentum.

Guys, in case you didn’t notice, everyone they included in the poll is someone actually running for President.

The big take away from this poll will be Bachmann’s strong showing which, from her perspective, comes at the perfect time considering she’ll be kicking off her campaign in Waterloo, Iowa tomorrow. Whether she’s just as strong 204 days from now when Iowa voters have their say remains to be seen.


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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. PD Shaw says:

    “Will that change now that Romney has garner the support of nearly a quarter of likely caucus goers?”

    He got 25% of Caucus voters in 2008 (winning 12 delegates to Huckabee’s 17). What Romney really lost in 2008 was in the battle of expectations. If he can simply repeat his performance in 2008 without necessarily committing to win the state, he will advance a fifty state strategy that most of his competitors can’t match. I’m guessing Romney will signal a luke-warm attitude on Iowa, but never withdraw.

  2. superdestroyer says:

    Who cares? Bachmann would lose in a 50 state rout to President Obama. I doubt if Bachmann would be able to deliver Utah or Alabama for the Republicans. Romney is just another in the Dole/McCain line of incompetent Republican losers who will lose in a rout and not even but a real effort in the general election.

    In 2012 the only real election is how many seats do the Democrats pick up in the U.S. House and in 2016 the real Presidential election will be the Democratic Primary in New Hampshire.

  3. Pete says:

    Superdestroyer, WoW! How much Kool Aid did you drink this morning?

  4. Pete says:
  5. An Interested Party says:

    You’re confused, Pete…the president most certainly isn’t superdestroyer’s hero…rather, superdestroyer thinks that the blacks/Hispanics/Jews/gays/etc. have taken over the Democratic Party and the country as a whole and, as a result, no GOP/white presidential candidate has a chance…

  6. I doubt if Bachmann would be able to deliver Utah or Alabama for the Republicans

    Actually, I am pretty sure that she win both those states and several others. That’s not to say that it wouldn’t be a route in Obama’s favor should she be nominated.

  7. @Steven,

    I figure that even a Bachmann or Palin could win states like Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, the Dakotas, Montana, Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina.

  8. superdestroyer says:

    Bachmann would create a significant decrease in Republican voter turnout and Bachman would receive almost no swing or independent votes.

    That means that Obama could win all 50 states against Bachmann and the Democrats would more than likely win back control of the U.S. House.

  9. You’d have to do some serious decrease in voter turnout to win Utah, for example.

    And I would not discount the degree to which Bachmann will excite some evangelicals in deep south.

  10. Heck, McCain won Utah 63-34 in 2008 and Wyoming 65-33. It is almost inconceivable that a Democrat could carry those states.

  11. jukeboxgrad says:

    A little election trivia: the D candidate won Utah and Wyoming in 1948 and 1964. Otherwise, not (since 1948, at least).

    I agree that either Palin or Bachmann would probably win those states, and a few other states.

  12. Eric Florack says:

    politico POLITICO
    Bachmann says a poll showing her near the top of the pack in Iowa is proof that she is a serious candidate:
    (the other possibility is that Romeny, the guy listed as number one in that poll, isn’t.)

  13. An Interested Party says:

    Best line I’ve seen so far about the GOP crew…

    The Republican presidential field looks less like an assemblage of candidates than a collection of fatal mistakes and irreparable flaws, with occasional embodiments of one or more of the Seven Deadly Sins.