GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Poll Saturday, leaving former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty in a distant third place among those who cast ballots.
Bachmann's supporters cheered the announcement of her victory, which she eked out by just 152 votes over Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
"This was a wonderful down payment on taking the country back and it started in Iowa," Bachmann said after emerging from her campaign bus full of thanks to her supporters. "God bless you all. God bless America."
Pawlenty's campaign issued a statement congratulating Bachmann and claiming the straw poll marks progress for Pawlenty's campaign "moving from the back of the pack into a competitive position" for next year's Iowa caucuses.
But Drake University political science professor Dennis Goldford said Pawlenty's third-place finish is without question a major blow to his presidential ambitions.
"Pawlenty had less than half the votes of either Bachmann or Paul and I think that's got to be a significant disappointment," he said. "He's got to do some serious rethinking about his campaign."
Goldford said Pawlenty will likely face fundraising difficulties going forward because of the result. Pawlenty's third-place finish comes despite having spent about $1 million in Iowa and campaigning hard there for a long time.
Pawlenty's campaign did not respond to numerous inquiries from Minnesota Public Radio News for reaction to the poll results. In addition to the short news release, the Pawlenty campaign was quick to send supporters a fundraising email in which Pawlenty states, "I'm encouraged by our progress," and the next phase of the campaign now begins.
All day long Pawlenty, Bachmann and several other GOP presidential candidates entertained supporters and potential supporters in hopes of strong straw poll showings.
Pawlenty volunteer John Swanson and his son came to Ames from Plymouth, Minn. to help round up Pawlenty straw poll votes.
"We were ambassadors which meant that we sort of roamed around and looked for people that didn't have a Pawlenty shirt on and didn't have somebody else's shirt on and tried to convince them to vote for Pawlenty," he said.
Swanson said Pawlenty needed at least the third-place finish he got.
"I'm going to support him as long as he stays in," Swanson said.
At the Bachmann tent there was plenty of food and even a free concert by country star Randy Travis.
Debbie Berberich from the east-central Iowa town of Stone City was one of hundreds of people making their way through a fast-moving line for food.
"She represents, I think, everything that I believe made our country what it is," Berberich said.
Berberich said finishing first will help Bachmann maintain and even grow her campaign's momentum.
"First of all it's going to keep her face and her name where it needs to be right now," she said. "We want to keep her where people see her."
The same day that brought Bachmann her straw poll victory also brought the entrance of Texas Gov. Rick Perry to the race. Perry will be campaigning in Iowa Sunday. Perry and Bachmann both appeal to the tea party and social conservative wings of the GOP, which will present new challenges for Bachmann.
1. Rep. Michele Bachmann (4823, 28.55 percent)
2. Rep. Ron Paul (4671, 27.65 percent)
3. Gov. Tim Pawlenty (2293, 13.57 percent)
4. Sen. Rick Santorum (1657, 9.81 percent)
5. Herman Cain(1456, 8.62 percent)
6. Gov. Rick Perry (718, 3.62 percent) (write-in)
7. Gov. Mitt Romney (567, 3.36 percent)
8. Speaker Newt Gingrich (385, 2.28 percent)
9. Gov. Jon Huntsman (69, 0.41 percent)
10. Rep. Thad McCotter (35, 0.21 percent)
11. Scattering (162, 0.96 percent) Includes all those receiving votes at less than one-percent that were not on the ballot.