Republicans battle it out for 2012 race

MICHELE Bachmann scraped to victory in the weekend’s Iowa straw poll of Republicans, with the race to challenge President Barack Obama set to heat up.

Bachmann narrowly pipped libertarian Ron Paul to the post, winning with nearly 29 per cent of the vote -- just 152 votes ahead of Paul.

Supporters of the more-ideological Paul swarmed the grounds and jammed the arena when he spoke. Americans will go to the polls in November 2012 to decide whether Democrat President Obama is elected to a second term in the White House.

Yet Bachmann could face a sterner contest from right-wing Texan governor Rick Perry, who stormed into the contest only this weekend.

Perry replaces previous second-favourite Tim Pawlenty, who sensationally dropped his campaign after coming a disappointing third place in Iowa, with less that 14 per cent of the vote. Sarah Palin – running mate to John McCain in 2008 -- looks unlikely to enter the race after Bachmann stormed ahead. It is thought she was hoping for a weak performance from Bachmann to pave the way for her own candidacy.

Outsider Ron Paul surprised analysts by coming second in Iowa. “Dr Paul is surging in this race, and today’s results show the strength of his grassroots support and top notch organisation”, his spokesperson said. Paul endorses “low taxes, free markets, and a return to sound monetary policies”.

WHICH REPUBLICAN WILL STAND AGAINST OBAMA?
SARAH PALIN 15/1
PALIN’S failure to announce her candidacy by this late stage, coupled with rival Bachmann’s strong performance, effectively rules out any hopes she may hold for the contest. One speculator expressed the view that the Alaskan governor would have entered the running yesterday following a poor result for her rival Minnesotan congresswoman. Despite having not even entered the contest yet, the infamous Palin is tipped as the bookies’ fourth favourite to win.

MICHELE BACHMANN 10/1
UNDERVALUED by bookmakers, Bachmann is one to watch. Narrowly seizing victory in Iowa’s straw poll, Minnesota’s first Republican congresswoman is more than a match for any challenge by Palin. Palin is the bigger brand, but Bachmann is the bigger personality.

As a traditional conservative with Tea Party support, PoliticalBetting.com’s Mike Smithson told City A.M. that Bachmann “has a better than 50 per cent chance of winning the first primary”.

MITT ROMNEY 2/1
DESPITE performing poorly at the Iowa straw pool with 3.37 per cent of the vote, Mitt Romney is a serious contender. The former governor of Massachusetts is no novice to presidential candidacy campaigning. Coming third to McCain in 2008, Romney’s campaign saw wins in 11 primaries and caucuses, funded by $45m out of his own pocket. With a background in management consultancy and private equity investment, Romney’s real life experience is his key strength.

RICK PERRY 15/8
PERRY came sixth in the Iowa straw poll with 4.26 per cent of the vote, yet remains the bookies’ favourite to win. Cited as the American public’s favourite by Mike Smithson of PoliticalBetting.com, some reckon that Perry’s support will eat into the Bachmann vote. Overtaking Romney as the market’s favourite, the ten years governor of Texas has overseen around 200 executions by electric chair, the most controversial of which may return to haunt his campaign.

RON PAUL 20/1
COMING a close second to Bachmann in yesterday’s poll with 27.74 per cent of the vote, Ron Paul is contesting the presidential candidacy a second time. Having come fourth to John McCain (and behind Romney) in 2008, the bookies place the 75-year-old Texas congressman four places below Romney as the sixth placed favourite to win. Libertarian Paul, originally from Pittsburgh, is an outspoken critic of current American economic and foreign policy.

JON HUNTSMAN 17/1
WITH a measly 0.41 per cent of votes at the straw poll, Jon Huntsman’s refusal to compromise policies may alienate the middle-ground conservatives. A career politician, Huntsman worked as staff assistant to Reagan, deputy assistant secretary of commerce and US trade representative to Bushes senior and junior respectively. The former governor of Utah achieved tax cuts of more than $400m while maintaining a budget surplus. Huntsman is also a Mormon.