Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann won a key test vote Saturday in the U.S. state of Iowa, on the same day Texas Governor Rick Perry shook up the Republican race by announcing his bid for the party’s nomination.
Bachmann won the Iowa “straw poll,” solidifying her as a top contender for the Republican nomination. The “straw poll” is an election with no official standing but is important for Republicans seeking to challenge President Barack Obama in the 2012 election.
Bachmann, a Minnesota congresswoman, is a favorite of conservative Tea Party activists seeking lower taxes and a smaller U.S. government.
Nearly 17,000 people took part in the voting Saturday in Ames, Iowa. Bachmann received 4,823 votes, followed by libertarian Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who came in a close second with 4,671 votes. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty was third (2,293 votes).
Perry was not on the ballot, but he earned 718 write-in votes. That is 151 more than former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the apparent frontrunner heading into the Iowa poll. Romney was on the ballot but did not participate much in the events surrounding the vote.
Perry is considered a formidable Republican challenger, with a strong record of Texas job growth and one that could appeal to social and economic conservatives. He is also a Tea Party favorite.
In a speech Saturday, he slammed Mr. Obama’s economic record and argued that Americans cannot afford four more years of what he called “rudderless leadership.” He also vowed to fix the economy and make government “inconsequential” in the lives of Americans.
The White House fired back, criticizing Perry’s economic record as governor of Texas.
Perry is the longest-serving governor in the nation, and the longest-serving in Texas history. He took over in Texas from Republican George W. Bush after Mr. Bush won the 2000 U.S. presidential election. He plans to visit Iowa on Sunday.
Others on the Iowa ballot were former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, two other former governors, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Jon Huntsman of Utah, and Michigan Congressman Thad McCotter. Georgia businessman Herman Cain and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum were also on the ballot.
Another potential candidate, former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, was not on the ballot. She has not said whether she will run for president, but she visited Iowa’s annual fair ahead of the “straw poll” to greet voters.
The “straw poll” was held about five months before the Iowa caucuses, the first primary in the presidential campaign season. In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama used his win in the Iowa caucuses as a springboard to best his rival Hillary Clinton in the battle for the Democratic Party nomination and the presidency.