Ames straw poll: Michele Bachmann beats Ron Paul -- by 152 votes
Rep. Michele Bachmann won the Ames straw poll today, but only by 152 votes over fellow Rep. Ron Paul.
Tim Pawlenty came in third with only about half the votes of Paul. Rick Santorum was fourth followed by Herman Cain (scroll down for vote totals).
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who wasn't on the Ames ballot and declared his candidacy only this afternoon in Charleston, S.C., before conservative writers, pulled something of an upset.
With only write-in votes, Perry topped Mitt Romney by about 200. They were both trailed by Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman and Thaddeus McCotter.
The quadrennial straw poll was held in the Hilton Coliseum at Iowa State University, also....
Before and after Thursday, the hopefuls headed to the Iowa State Fairgrounds outside of Des Moines and climbed atop the Des Moines Register soapbox to appeal to fairgoers directly (and to the C-SPAN audience).
Candidates also strolled the fairgrounds, sampled pork chops on a stick, deep-fried butter on a stick and cheesecake on a stick, threw on grilling aprons, and did a lot of grinning and gripping with potential voters.
Among those on the fair circuit on Friday was Sarah Palin, who again told Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity she is still considering entering the race but was not at the fair for that purpose.
Palin obviously wasn't on the straw poll ballot and wasn't reported today to have received write-in votes.
The straw poll itself, essentially a fundraiser for the Iowa Republican Party, featured pitches to the crowd from the candidates, who reserved space for tents at the gathering in the town of Ames. As always, location is key, and frequent online-and-straw-poll winner Ron Paul forked over $31,000 for the best patch of ground (good to know real-estate prices are holding up somewhere).
On the ballot were candidates who reserved space at the straw poll to guarantee placement -- Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Thaddeus McCotter, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum -- and three nonparticipants -- Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman Jr., Newt Gingrich -- whom the Iowa Republicans voted to place in contention.
The candidates also speechified to the voters inside the arena, with Santorum stressing moral values; Paul surprisingly leading with an antiabortion message; Pawlenty talking about his experience and accomplishments; Bachmann emphasizing her Iowa roots and heartland values; McCotter mixing his trademark trenchant wit with themes of citizen sovereignty and technology, and a passionate warning about China's growing influence; and Cain speaking forcefully about problem-solving and his hopes for his grandchildren (and bringing many in the arena to their feet).
And the final results were: Bachmann (4,823), Paul (4,671), Pawlenty (2,293), Santorum (1,657), Cain (1,456), Perry (718 write-in votes), Romney (567), Gingrich (385), Huntsman (69), McCotter (35). Also, there were 162 under the category of "Scattering."
-- Kate O'Hare
Media critic Kate O’Hare is a regular Ticket contributor. She also blogs about TV at Hot Cuppa TV and is a frequent contributor at entertainment news site Zap2it. Also follow O'Hare on Twitter @KateOH.
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Photos: Prize corn at the Iowa State Fair; Thaddeus McCotter (in front of the banner) and Herman Cain addressing crowds at the Iowa State Fair. Credits: Scott Olsen / Getty Images (corn); Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images (McCotter, Cain)