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The winners in Iowa were (1) Ron Paul, (2) Rick Perry, and (3) Michele Bachmann, in that order.
Michele Bachmann is the winner of record, and will always be listed that way in the history books. But in terms of the dynamism and impact of the race, she has been hurt by the Iowa Straw Poll results. Behind closed doors, she and her campaign managers cannot be happy tonight.
She had the home turf advantage and she had the media for and against her in just the right ways. She supposedly had momentum on her side. Given all that, the fact that she beat Ron Paul by a mere 152 votes (1% of the total votes cast) is an embarrassment and a sign of long-term weakness.
Let me explain two kinds of media bias, and their pivotal role in the voting at the Iowa Straw Poll.
The mainstream/liberal media detests Michele Bachmann, no doubt about it. She's not the kind of person they invite to their cocktail parties. But the important point is, they treat her as a serious candidate. When they acknowledge that she can win in Iowa, and perhaps win the Republican nomination, they legitimize her. And when they are nasty to her, as with the Newsweek cover, that helps her too. Nothing earns you votes in a Republican primary or other grassroots event like a nasty attack by the liberal media.
The media attacks on Ron Paul are of an entirely different nature. They seek to de-legitimize him as a serious candidate. And the intention is to depress the vote for Ron Paul. Outside of his hard core supporters who are ostracized as crazed political groupies, mostly college students high on ideology who wants to "throw away" their vote for someone who "cannot win"?
The Iowa straw poll raised a couple of problems for the media. They couldn't complain that he brought in supporters from all over the nation, because only registered Iowa voters can vote in the straw poll. And they couldn't complain that he was buying votes because all the candidates do that. That's the idea, in fact — the Iowa Straw Poll is a fundraiser for the Iowa Republican Party.
Given the two types of media bias I've noted, Bachmann should have benefited from her treatment by the media, while Ron Paul's vote should have been depressed by the media's treatment of him. That's why Bachmann's grand 152-vote victory wasn't a victory at all. Yes, she is the most popular conservative candidate at this point, but such a squeaker suggests that we're in a Peak Bachmann era and she has nowhere to go but down, with Perry entering the race.
The anti-Paul media's solution (both the leftist media and the rightist media) is to ignore Ron Paul's near-victory. I watched the results come in on CNN. They had to show the actual votes on the scorecard, of course. But the rhetoric was something else. A CNN commentator said breathlessly and loudly, "The two big winners in Iowa tonight were Michele Bachmann and…[I'm not making this up] Rick Perry, with his 718 write-in votes." Yes, 718 votes trump 4,671 votes. The commentator didn't mention Ron Paul.
Then the megaphone shifted to the right, in the person of Erick Erickson of the RedState blog site. I don't know what Erickson's Ron Paul problem is, but his solution like the left is to just ignore Paul. Paul's not serious enough to waste analysis on him. When Erickson does one of his periodic blogs on how the Republican candidates are doing in relation to each other (u201CThe Horseraceu201D), he gives no analysis for Ron Paul. Jon Huntsman (69 votes in Iowa) gets analysis, but Ron Paul? Erickson just says month after month, like an inside joke, that u201CRon Paul will not get the nomination.u201D Ha-ha. As if Pawlenty, Gingrich, Santorum, or Cain will get the nomination True to form, tonight Erickson blabbered about how Rick Perry was the victor, rather than acknowledging Ron Paul's strong showing.