The results are in for the Ames Straw Poll. Michele Bachmann won, while Ron Paul took a close second. The spread between the two was less than 200 votes. Tim Pawlenty came in third, but it was a distant third. I think this just about puts him out of contention. Although Romney finished 7th, he was not competitively trying to win. You can see the results here.
As I blogged on Thursday, I think the race for the Republican nomination comes down to four people. Those four are Mitt Romney, Rick Perry (who just announced), Michele Bachmann, and Ron Paul. I think my prediction has become stronger based on the straw poll results.
If Sarah Palin enters the race, I don't think she will win the nomination. If anything, she will probably just take votes away from Bachmann. They are both women and they are favorites amongst Tea Party conservatives. I don't think her entering the race would be damaging to Ron Paul, as his supporters are more libertarian than conservative.
As for the debate, I watched most of it on Thursday and it was a bit more interesting than past ones. Pawlenty and Bachmann went at it and I thought that Bachmann got the best of him. I think this was his last chance to perform well and he basically failed. He had a few funny one-liners, but this is not enough to be successful.
Newt Gingrich came across fairly well, although I still think he is a fake. He does not stand a chance because most people sense (rightly) that he can't win against Obama. So even those who like him realize that others don't.
Rick Santorum has never stood a chance and that will continue. He claims to be a wonderful Christian, yet he wants to bomb the Middle East back to the stone age.
Herman Cain occasionally sounds good when he is speaking libertarian rhetoric. The rest of the time he comes across as vague and, quite frankly, stupid.
Jon Huntsman just comes across as creepy and he is another establishment favorite, except he has little chance.
Ron Paul had an interesting night at the debate. I thought he would shine more with economics. We are in an economic crisis and he has predicted much of what has happened. He did not shine as much as I thought (or hoped) he would. He nailed it when they were talking about Romneycare and the 10th Amendment. He said that while it may be bad policy, the federal government should not go in with their guns to overturn state law. Bachmann got this completely wrong, which should show libertarians that she is not a libertarian.
I thought Ron Paul shined the most when it came to foreign policy. Of course, people who disagree with him will see things differently. This is where he really distinguishes himself from the field. When Santorum challenged him on Iran, Paul really showed off his intelligence when he pointed out that the Iranian conflict goes back to at least 1953 when the U.S. government overthrew their leader.
When it comes to the economy and fiscal policy, I think Ron Paul needs to challenge the other candidates more. It was actually Santorum who pointed out that a majority of the budget is made up of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the military. This makes it almost impossible to balance the budget unless you make huge cuts to one or more of these things. But Ron Paul actually could cut enough to balance the budget. It would be difficult for Michele Bachmann to explain how she would balance the budget. She emphasized that she voted against raising the debt ceiling, but it is unclear what she would specifically cut to balance the budget.
In conclusion, I think we are down to four: Romney, Perry, Bachmann, and Paul. This is great news for libertarians as we have a spokesman in the national spotlight. Even if he doesn't win, the country will be better off as more people move towards true liberty.