Rich Galen

This Straw Poll was a fight among the GOP candidates who want to claim the mantle of the leader of the conservative wing. Romney is not interested in that title, Perry and Bachmann are. Pawlenty was. Santorum and Cain didn't matter before Saturday's and they matter less after it was over.

Bachmann's people deserve great credit. She does not have nearly the organization here in Iowa where campaigning in the local coffee shop is typically followed up by a county coordinator having a team of workers take over when the candidate leaves to get names, addresses, phone numbers and emails of everyone in the place.

Bachmann did it with advertising and a ton of what used to be called "free" media - press - but is now called "earned" media. This result will boost her Q-factor but there are two dark clouds on the horizon: Perry and Palin.

Rick Perry is now in the race. He is a very accomplished campaigner and is fully capable of whacking Bachmann around. Note the way he handled Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the primary campaign for Perry's re-election as Governor of Texas. He can bring a crowd to its feet as easily as Bachmann but has the story-line as a successful Governor of one of America's largest states. That is a better story than being one of 435 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The other cloud is named Sarah Palin. Palin made her promised appearance at the Iowa State Fair here on Friday and it was as if Pippa Middleton had wandered in for a fried-butter-on-a-stick.

Bachmann might be able to hang in with Perry; but it is doubtful that she would be able to withstand a joint attack from Perry and Palin.

So, where does this leave Mitt Romney? Until he's not the front-runner he still is. He didn't compete here which was a good call on his part. I expect his campaign is dusting off the binder with the game plan to run against Perry and Bachmann (and maybe Palin) between now and the next time we're all in Des Moines.

Then we can play the expectation game throughout the caucuses and primaries.


Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at Mullings.com.