The Brutally Honest Index: Iowa Straw Poll Prediction Edition

gop field

By Steve Deace

Please note that these predictions are my analysis and not my preference. I will not be endorsing a candidate before the Iowa Straw Poll, if at all, nor will I vote in the Iowa Straw Poll on Saturday.

These predictions are simply based on the best data I’m privy to.

1. Michele Bachmann (21%)

She is clearly the favorite right now, but she faces a real test in Thursday’s pre-Straw Poll debate hosted by Fox News. Barring journalistic malfeasance, she’s going to be asked about signing the controversial FAMiLY LEADER marriage pledge, as well as her husband working to deliver those ensnared by homosexuality via Christian counseling so that they may live the lives God originally created them to live. How she responds to that questioning could very well determine Saturday’s results. If she has a Tim Pawlenty moment of uncertainty, like her fellow Minnesotan had when invited to confront Mitt Romney on Romneycare during the last New Hampshire debate, then the outcome on Saturday will also be uncertain. On the other hand, if she stands her ground then the mystery isn’t whether or not she’ll win, but by how much. By the way, in case you’re wondering where my predicted finish for Bachmann stacks up with past Iowa Straw Poll winners (keep in mind this year’s field is more crowded than past years):

1987—Pat Robertson 34%

1995—Bob Dole & Phil Gramm 24%

1999— George W. Bush 31%

2007—Mitt Romney 32%

2. Ron Paul (18%)

Paul’s support is pretty much locked into the 15-20% range. He has a devoted following that will show up no matter what, but it’s his ability to expand beyond that base that is in question. Nevertheless, if the weather is poor and/or Bachmann bombs the debate on Thursday he may not have to.

3. Tim Pawlenty (15%)

He just never caught on for various reasons, despite being the person who worked Iowa the hardest and the most. There have already been articles pointing fingers at whom or what is to blame for that, which is never a good omen. I believe he has to win the Straw Poll to justify hanging around given the looming entrance of Rick Perry and perhaps Sarah Palin.

4. Rick Santorum (13%)

He is catching some fire as of late, and is the best chance for a Straw Poll surprise. Although this would be far lower than fellow conservative Catholic Sam Brownback finished in the 2007 Straw Poll when he dropped out afterwards, Santorum can actually make the case he is picking up momentum given how low he’s been rated in polls and therefore deserves to stick around. I know people who are predicting he will finish ahead of Pawlenty. I don’t have quite the guts to call that shot, but I definitely see evidence of him picking up late pockets of support.

5. Herman Cain (9%)

I’ll give him a small bump courtesy of his endorsement from the Fair Tax people, who showed up in force at the Straw Poll four years ago, but other than that there’s little doubt his campaign has been done in Iowa quicker than you can say Christian Fong.

6. Mitt Romney (8%)

Romney’s finish is the toughest for me to predict, because there is still a cache of loyal supporters there despite his avoidance of Iowa. However, Iowans typically don’t reward candidates who do avoid them.

7. Rick Perry (7%)

There will be a subtle yet substantive write-in effort on behalf of the Texas governor/presidential candidate in waiting, we just don’t know yet how substantive.

8. Newt Gingrich (4%)

The former Speaker is planning a complete reboot of his presidential bid in September that he’s promising will be bold. We shall see if it’s a case of too little, too late. For now he’s a non-entity in Ames.

9. Sarah Palin (3%)

I think there will be some write-in votes for the former Alaska governor, but not necessarily as part of an organized effort by her fellows. She’ll make her show of force at the Central Iowa Tea Party rally on September 3rd.

9. Thaddeus McCotter (1%)

I think he’ll get a few votes from people who are either contrarians, or they just want to take advantage of the rare opportunity to vote for someone named Thaddeus.

10. Jon Huntsman (1%)

He’s the champion of the self-loathing Iowa Republican who thinks we don’t deserve to have the Iowa Caucuses if the Arlen Specters of the world aren’t welcome here. Thankfully, that’s barely 1% of the Iowa Straw Poll voting demographic, because the rest of them are too busy either working for or funding Terry Branstad’s lifetime appointment to Terrace Hill to take part.


  • Big_Al

    I wonder if the recent downgrade and financial woes will swing some support Ron Paul’s way.  I have been undecided through this process and while I respect Bachmann, I do not feel she is the best choice.  My vote will be going with Paul, and I think he will win. 

  • Scott A. McLin

    Cant say that I disagree with this analysis, the only variable would be the debate this week.

  • Nick Weltha

    Historically speaking, no candidate has ever not had a booth at the Iowa Straw Poll and finished higher than 1.4% (Fred Thompson in 2007). I think the only candidate poised to do better than that this time around is Romney, who will likely get 3%. His team is expecting a second place finish, and I don’t think they understand how the Straw Poll works. If they aren’t buying tickets, they aren’t getting votes.

    Here were my predictions about a month ago based on polling and performance:
    Bachmann 37%
    Pawlenty 16%
    Paul 12%
    Cain 11%
    Gingrich 7%
    Santorum 7%
    Romney 5%
    Palin 4%

    The more I’ve been researching, the more I think it was wrong of me to put Romney and Palin in such high regard, plus Cain & Gingrich have continued to fall while I think Santorum has seen some of a bump. Since learning that the Iowa Straw Poll VERY HARSHLY punishes non-participants, I’ve decided to revise my numbers.

    Pawlenty is the hardest for me to pinpoint, because while I think he could have beaten Paul, I don’t think that Iowa Energy Forum and Strong America Now are going to be able to bus in as many people as Bachmann and Paul are scheduled to. But they are busing people in, and it is his campaign staff doing it. Additionally, while I initially had a really high regard for Bachmann’s presence in Iowa, I’m not so sure it hasn’t waned, and I’m pretty sure she’s going to be the focus of ire in the upcoming debate. Paul is busing people in, that’s going to be huge.

    So my revised and final predictions for the week leading into the Straw Poll:
    Bachmann 29%
    Paul 21%
    Pawlenty 17%
    Santorum 13%
    Cain 8%
    Gingrich 6%
    Romney 3%
    Palin 1%
    Perry 1%
    Other 1%

    I do agree that the weather is going to have a pretty big impact on who shows up.

  • hatefalseweight

    Paul should repeatedly quote the Proverbs admonition against “false weights and measures” until Iowan Neo-vangelicals can understand it is not nice to use your currency / monetary system protection racket to steal from the entire world and shoot them with bullets they paid for.  What  goes around comes around i.e bond downgrades, poverty, internal strife in your  land … sowing / reaping, that’s what it’s all about.   Up until now , that’s been too un-American, isolationist and anti-Semitic to tolerate. 

  • Craig Bergman

    I think you underestimate Paul.  And perhaps over estimate Bachmann.  I say it is too close to call that one.  It will entirely be a who out performs the other in the last push, as neither has really done a close the deal job.

    Paul 25%
    Bachmann 25%
    Pawlenty 18%

    I think you underestimate the “front groups” for Pawlenty.  While as a candidate he has been an under performer, he does have the best organization money can buy.  That will count for something. But in any case, he is the odd man out, and first out of the race.  Enter Rick Parry, Stand In.

    Santorum beats Cain – Few would have seen this 2 months ago, but it will be reality Saturday night. Both at 9% but the 4th place and the juxtaposition of the two camps means Santorum makes the cut and will stay in getting a second wind and Cain must go.

    Perry beats Romney and this becomes the Perry Talking point for the next many months.

    Like Gilligan’s Island,…. then there is “the rest” of them.

    Gingrich, Huntsman, McCotter, are all done.  Palin, even if she comes in dead last isn’t putting any focus on August.  Her turnout will be counted 3 weeks later, when everyone sees the kind of draw she can get on her own.  It could exceed the entire combined field of the Straw Poll.

  • Danedon1

    Steve, you did very well on the order and Craig did better on the numbers!  He more accurately predicted the almost tie between Bachmann & Paul.