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BREAKING: Bachmann Wins Ames Straw Poll, Ron Paul Second, Rick Perry Surprise

The votes have been tabulated, and Rep. Michele Bachmann has pulled out a tight victory at the 2011 Ames Straw Poll.  Out of nearly 17,000 votes cast (a very strong overall turnout), Bachmann pulled in 4,823 votes -- just a few dozen than Rep. Paul, the 2nd place finisher.  Gov. Tim Pawlenty came in a pretty distant third with 2,293.  From there, it was:


Sen. Rick Santorum (1,657)
Herman Cain (1,456)
Gov. Rick Perry (718)
Gov. Mitt Romney (567)
Rep. Newt Gingrich (385)
Gov. Jon Huntsman (69)
Rep. Thad McCotter (35)

This is obviously an impressive showing for Bachmann, who met expectations and won.  She more than doubled the total of her fellow Minnesotan, Tim Pawlenty -- which must feel satisfying in the wake of their nasty exchanges on Thursday.  Rick Perry's performance is also notable.  Yes, he had some (unofficial) organization on the ground here, but he was not on the ballot -- unlike all other vote-getters.  So without being an official candidate until today, without being on the ballot, without being physically present in the state, without participating in Thursday's debate, and without spending any money, Perry commanded nearly 1/3 the vote total of Tim Pawlenty -- who invested very heavily in this event. 

Pawlenty's campaign has already blasted out a statement spinning the results positively, and vowing to forge ahead.  Still, this must be a worrying result for them.  The biggest overall winner of the day -- aside from Bachmann and Paul, who worked hard and dominated the straw poll field -- is Rick Perry.  He made a massive splash in South Carolina with his announcement, stole some of the limelight in Iowa without even being here, and garnered quite a lot of news coverage in New Hampshire, where he's meeting with supporters tonight.  That's an early-state trifecta, seemingly executed with precision.


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