Register poll has good news for Bachmann, bad news for Pawlenty

The Des Moines Register’s new poll of 400 likely Republican caucus-goers indicates that Representative Michele Bachmann is gaining ground. Selzer and Co surveyed Iowans between June 19 and 22, and the margin of error for the sample of likely caucus-goers is plus or minus 4.9 percent. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney leads the field with 23 percent support, but he has already indicated that he won’t invest heavily in Iowa this cycle. Bachmann nearly matched Romney in the Register’s poll with 22 percent. Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain placed a distant third with 10 percent, followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Representative Ron Paul (7 percent each), former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (6 percent), former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (4 percent) and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman (2 percent).

Romney’s best numbers are among moderates, people with less than a college education, and those earning less than $50,000 per year. Bachmann did particularly well with respondents who are very conservative, well-educated and/or between the ages of 45 and 64. The encouraging poll numbers will give her more buzz just as she is scheduled to formally announce her candidacy (for the second or third time) in Waterloo on June 27.

The results are terrible for Pawlenty, who doesn’t seem to be getting any traction out of his large staff and many Iowa visits. Putting a less-bad spin on the numbers,

Republican pollster Randy Gutermuth pointed out that the Iowa Poll took place before Pawlenty’s television ads, direct mail and other paid voter outreach had time to penetrate.

“It’s way too early to be writing off Tim Pawlenty,” said Gutermuth, who is not affiliated with any presidential candidate. “I’m sure they’d rather be leading today, but I don’t think they’re jumping out of buildings either.”

Maybe not jumping out of buildings, but eager to change the subject as soon as this poll came out. On June 26, Pawlenty’s campaign announced the formation of an Iowa Legislative Steering Committee. Legislators serving on the committee cover all regions of the state: Iowa Senators Randy Feenstra (district 2), Rob Bacon (district 5) and Shawn Hamerlinck (district 42), and State Representatives Chip Baltimore (district 48), Joel Fry (district 95), Erik Helland (district 69), Chris Hagenow (district 59), Steve Lukan (district 32), Linda Miller (district 82) and Matt Windschitl (district 56). Unfortunately for Pawlenty, all the endorsements in the world won’t turn things around unless the candidate starts connecting with caucus-goers. Right now Bachmann leads him even as a second choice for Iowans who prefer Romney–and that’s without any of the candidates picking apart Pawlenty’s fiscal record and heavy state borrowing.

Speaking of the Register’s opinion polls and caucus coverage, the Sunday paper announced that Jennifer Jacobs will be the Register’s chief political writer. She replaces Thomas Beaumont, who took a job with the Associated Press this spring.

Any comments about the Republican presidential race are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Douglas Burns tells us what a top British bookmaker says. Even before this poll was released, Ladbrokes gave Bachmann the best chance of winning the Iowa caucuses.

SECOND UPDATE: More detailed questions results from the new Iowa poll are here. I’ve highlighted some interesting results from the “issue” questions after the jump.

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Ames straw poll bidding and other GOP presidential campaign news

Six candidates joined the bidding yesterday as the Republican Party of Iowa auctioned off space for the Ames straw poll event. Representative Ron Paul ponied up $31,000 for the best spot to pitch a tent outside the August 13 festivities. Four years ago, front-runner Mitt Romney used that spot, but the well-financed Romney is ditching this year’s straw poll.

The other candidates to pay at least $15,000 for guaranteed spots at the venue and on the straw poll ballot were Representative Michele Bachmann, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and (coming way out of right field) Representative Thad McCotter of Michigan. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was conspicuously absent from the bidding. Candidates who didn’t bid yesterday may secure a spot on the straw poll ballot later. Among the possibilities: Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Follow me after the jump for more on the Republican campaign trail in Iowa, including new endorsements and Pawlenty’s first television commercial.

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Weekend open thread and GOP presidential campaign links

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers?

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty sent out his first direct mail to Iowa Republicans this week. The mailer is a biographical piece, describing Pawlenty’s childhood and family background as well as key achievements as governor. Two prominent Iowa Republicans are co-chairing Pawlenty’s campaign in this state: former gubernatorial candidate Christian Fong and Roger Underwood. Fong has carved out a niche as a promoter of conservatism among younger Iowa voters. Underwood has worked in the ag industry in Ames for the last three decades and was a policy adviser for Terry Branstad’s gubernatorial campaign. After the jump I’ve posted the Pawlenty campaign press release with more background on Fong and Underwood.

Black Hawk County Republicans still hope Representative Michele Bachmann will officially announce her candidacy in Waterloo this month, even though she already confirmed during Monday’s CNN Republican debate that she is running for president. In a web video released June 13, Bachmann said she had filed papers to run and promised, “With your common sense and with your energy, working together, we will take our country back in 2012.” Many presidential candidates become book authors, and Bachmann is shopping around a memoir, to be published this fall. State Senator Kent Sorenson is heading Bachmann’s campaign in Iowa; Iowa GOP State Central Committee member Wes Enos is a staffer for her political action committee. Enos was Mike Huckabee’s political director in Iowa before the 2008 caucuses.

Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s presidential campaign looks finished before it officially began. A few days ago Danny Carroll resigned as Moore’s Iowa campaign chair, saying Moore was not “going to be able to raise the money necessary for a viable campaign.” Sioux City Pastor Cary Gordon, a Moore supporter and prominent figure in last year’s campaign against retaining Iowa Supreme Court justices, told Bret Hayworth that he has advised Moore to drop the presidential bid he’s been exploring. Moore wasn’t raising enough money to compete in the Iowa GOP’s August straw poll in Ames, Gordon explained.

Parenting magazine just named Des Moines number 5 on its list of 100 “best cities for families,” citing good education, health and amenities as well as a low unemployment rate. Moving his wife and children to Des Moines for several months didn’t boost then-Senator Chris Dodd’s campaign for the 2008 Democratic caucuses. But at least Dodd wasn’t charging a school district back home in Connecticut for his daughters’ education in Iowa. When Rick Santorum was in the U.S. Senate, a suburban Pittsburgh school district paid big bucks for his children to use its internet-based school from their home in Virginia.

Speaking of Santorum, has anyone heard his Iowa radio commercial? His campaign didn’t release the size of the ad buy.

This is an open thread.

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Rick Santorum's first radio ad in Iowa (with transcript)

Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum is back in Iowa today, meeting and greeting potential caucus-goers in Denison before attending a “Trunk & Tusk” reception at a farm near Holstein later in the afternoon. Tonight he headlines an event for the Ida County Republican Party, and tomorrow he will join the Iowa Tea Party bus tour in Spencer.

Starting this week, Santorum will reach Iowa Republicans though the radio as well. His first commercial went up yesterday on nationwide satellite radio and hits the airwaves in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina later this week. The campaign didn’t release the size of the ad buy.

You can listen to Santorum’s 60-second spot at his presidential campaign website. I’ve posted my transcript after the jump, along with some analysis of the message and what’s notably absent from the message.

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New Hampshire Republican debate discussion thread

For those who plan to watch this evening’s CNN debate featuring seven Republican presidential candidates, here’s a new discussion thread on the race for the GOP nomination.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty tried to set the media narrative going into the debate. During a Sunday morning appearance on Fox News, Pawlenty noted, “President Obama said that he designed ‘Obamacare’ after ‘Romneycare’ and basically made it ‘Obamneycare.’” Romney’s campaign responded, “Republicans should keep the focus on President Obama’s failure to create jobs and control spending.” Easier said than done, given how unpopular the health insurance reform law is with the GOP primary electorate.

Pawlenty has traded blows with Representative Michele Bachmann over the past few days:

During a Friday interview, Neil Cavuto of Fox showed Mr. Pawlenty a poll indicating he’s running at the back of the pack and he asked the former governor if he was annoyed that Ms. Bachmann seems to generate more buzz than he does. “Look,” he replied, “I’m not speaking about Michele Bachmann here but I’m not running for comedian-in-chief or entertainer-in-chief. You know, if people want to have that be the main consideration, they should go to a Broadway show.”

In a WSJ Opinion interview Saturday, Ms. Bachmann was asked whether Mr. Pawlenty as a good governor. “I really don’t want to comment,” she said.

Some Iowa Republicans believe Pawlenty is best positioned to capitalize on last week’s mass exodus of Newt Gingrich staffers and Romney’s decision not to contest the Ames straw poll.  I find it hard to see Pawlenty drawing a lot of enthusiastic support from the rank and file. If he seems to be on the rise, it won’t be hard for other candidates to bring up his terrible record of fiscal management.

Besides Pawlenty, Romney, Bachmann and Gingrich, the CNN debate will also include former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain, Representative Ron Paul, and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. CNN excluded some candidates who have been campaigning in New Hampshire, such as former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and longtime campaign operative Fred Karger, probably the best-known Republican supporter of marriage equality.

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman decided against participating in this debate, but he is likely to announce his candidacy in the next two weeks. Appearing on CNN yesterday, Huntsman indicated that he would accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. His campaign will put foreign policy experience front and center, but Huntsman has also begun to criticize President Barack Obama’s economic record. If he did that on the debate stage, his rivals would surely point out that Huntsman supported the 2009 federal stimulus.

Pundits increasingly speculate that Texas Governor Rick Perry will run for president. He has reportedly been talking to major donors, and could hire a couple of the senior staffers who quit the Gingrich campaign. I don’t see Perry as a strong presidential candidate. Linda Feldman discussed some of his weaknesses in the Christian Science Monitor, but she left out one other glaring problem in his record. This year Texas had the second-largest projected state budget shortfall in the country (as a percentage of current-year state government spending), even larger than California’s.

UPDATE: I didn’t watch the debate, but Republican insiders seem to think it was a good night for Romney and Bachmann and a bad night for Pawlenty.

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Gingrich implodes, Romney skips straw poll and other Iowa caucus news

Political junkies may not have Newt Gingrich to kick around much longer. His whole presidential campaign staff quit yesterday, frustrated by the candidate’s lack of a work ethic.

Iowa Republicans will have fewer chances to kick Mitt Romney around this summer. The former Massachusetts governor won’t compete in the Iowa GOP’s straw poll this August, his campaign confirmed yesterday.

After the jump I have more links on those stories and other Republican presidential candidate news. I’ve got nothing on the Iowa GOP Lincoln dinner fundraiser that was supposed to be held tonight, though, because the state party canceled that event after Donald Trump backed out.

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