Bachmann Wins Gold, Ron Paul Silver In Iowa: What Next for GOP And Tea-Party?

Michele Bachmann

The Bachmann-Paul sweep in Iowa means the two Tea-Party titans are resonating strongly with potential voters in GOP primaries. 

Although Mitt Romney did not participate in the Iowa straw poll and Texas Governor Rick Perry announced his bid on the polling day, it does look like 2012 GOP primaries are going to be a slug-fest between Romney, Perry, Paul and Bachmann right up to summer 2012.

The biggest disappointment is inside Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman’s campaigns since they failed to gain support with key segments among Republican electorate.

Both candidates wanted to convince the voters that they had the record and ability to push through tough reforms to facilitate job growth and restructure the debt.

Despite strong vote of confidence from Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, and other business leaders, Pawlenty was not able to capitalise on the deep resentment among the middle-class, working poor, and small business segments of GOP over Washington DCs measures to combat systemic unemployment, debt restructuring and entitlement reform.

Pawlenty’s evangelical Protestant affiliation also did not materialise into votes at the straw poll. This means the sizable evangelical GOP base in Middle-America has economy more than religion on their minds this year.

In order to save his losses, Pawlenty’s campaign threw in the towel shortly after a dismal Iowa poll outcome.

Jon Huntsman is still in the race. Huntsman could muster broad support from the US Chamber of Commerce as well as international investors due to his experience as Governor of Utah and Ambassador to China if he became President.

Regrettably Huntsman, like Pawlenty, is not showing any traction in polls. Huntsman’s Mormon affiliation will be less of a problem for him this year due to the bad economy.

There was already a palpable feeling among voters that Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and Thaddeus McCotter were not strong candidates to begin with.

Either they did not have the personality, affiliations and message, or the serious legislative track record on jobs and debt reduction. In Newt’s case, his not so squeaky clean personal lifestyle is another self-inflicted hurdle.

If this was any other election cycle, Ron Paul would not gain so much support among mainstream GOP electorate, but the way things are going in the country, his campaign might throw a surprise next year in Iowa and perhaps even in New Hampshire like Pat-Buchanan did in 1992 and 1996.

Paul’s momentum is mainly due to his unmatched voting record on spending and debt, his sharply contrasting message relative to other GOP hopefuls on abolishing the income tax and TSA, and growing acceptance among middle and working-class voters in addition to his traditional conservative-libertarian base.

But in big States like Florida, Texas and California, Paul and Bachmann will have real trouble where voter sentiments and ideological affiliations are not uniform and cohesive.  

Paul’s Achilles heel will be his perceived weakness on national security, heroine and prostitution where Bachmann scores heavily with her firebrand foreign policy and narcotics enforcement rhetoric.

Bachmann’s recent voting record on taxes, debt, financial reform and loud condemnation of “Obamacare” has won her plaudits from mainstream GOP voters. But she might face significant headwinds in garnering campaign cash from business and financial sector, who might feel Romney or Perry are better bets.

If it were the boom years like the 1990s, Romney or Perry would have had the clear edge compared to the other two GOP hopefuls, and they would have slugged it out between themselves right up to the nomination.

In those circumstances, paycheck concerns take the backseat and social issues such as abortion, LGBT rights and religious affiliation weigh strongly on the GOP voters’ minds. Perry’s Protestant heritage would have appealed more compared to Romney’s Mormon and blue-blood heritage.

But in this election cycle, religious affiliation and social convictions will remain on the sidelines, and both Perry and Romney will have to capture voters leaning towards Bachmann and Paul.

Sarah Palin still has her cards close to her heart, but if she jumps in, she will likely soak a large pool of Bachmann’s rapture evangelical support.

In that case, it will be a fight between Romney, Perry, Paul and Palin. Except Romney, the rest of the three will be trumpeting the Tea-Party mantle.

Paul, the “Intellectual Godfather of the Tea-Party”, Palin the “Godmother of the Tea-Party” and Perry “The Texas Cow-Boy”, who will shoot from the hip at Ben Bernanke. 

Large corporations, small and medium businesses, and financial sector will likely be split between Romney and Perry. Both of them will see wide acceptance among the corporate mining, oil and gas donors, with Perry claiming a slight edge due to the sizable Texas GOP base coming from the gulf oil and gas industry. 

But this year, all bets are off.