Michele Bachmann Top Choice of Iowa Voters; Pawlenty Begins Attack

Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney switched places as the frontrunner in an already tight Republican primary race in Iowa. Bachmann is now leading Romney 25 percent to 21 percent in a poll conducted for The Iowa Republican.

The distance between the two frontrunners and third place is also growing. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Atlanta businessman Herman Cain are both hovering around 9 percent, with Pawlenty having a slight edge.

Bringing up the remainder of the pack are Rep. Ron Paul of Texas with six percent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with four percent, former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania with two percent, and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman with one percent.

Bachmann’s candidacy has surged in recent months, most notably at the expense of fellow Minnesotan Tim Pawlenty. Bachmann has been capitalizing on the fact she grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, and also on her solid Tea Party credentials.

While the top polling number is the most sought after by the candidates and media outlets, insiders want to take a look at what are known as “cross tabs,” such as how voters rank the favorable/unfavorable of each candidate.

Although Bachmann’s lead is narrow and within the poll’s margin of error, the best news for Bachmann is her “favorable” number is ten points higher than Romney’s. Interestingly, her “unfavorable” number is 14 percentage points lower than Romney’s, giving her an incredible 65-favorability margin.

Pawlenty’s favorable/unfavorable spread is “plus” 48 margin. He is also well liked by caucus goers, but the likeability factor has not translated into solid numbers for the former Minnesota governor. He has, however, moved up three percentage points since the last poll was taken by the Des Moines Register.

But Pawlenty is not giving Bachmann a free pass as the Iowa straw poll approaches. Over the weekend, Pawlenty hit Bachmann by saying his fellow Minnesota Congresswoman had a “nonexistent” record in Congress.

“I like Congresswoman Bachmann. I’ve campaigned for her, I respect her. But her record of accomplishment in Congress is nonexistent,” Pawlenty told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We’re not looking for folks who just have speech capabilities. We’re looking for people who can lead a large enterprise in a public setting…I’ve done that, she hasn’t.”

Bachmann responded on the Sunday morning news shows by saying she will “focus on her accomplishments” and avoid negative comments of her former governor.

“People can count of me as a fighter,” she said in response to Pawlenty’s comments. “I am proud of my record of fighting with resolve, and without apology, for our free markets, for sane fiscal politics, and in opposition to the advancement of the big government left.”

Pawlenty and Bachmann have a long political relationship. He was the state’s governor when Bachmann served in the Minnesota State Senate.

“To date, the race has not yet developed into an ideological contest,” wrote Craig Robinson, the polls creator in The Iowa Republican.

“This is perhaps not as surprising as one might think because no one is running as the moderate in the race. Candidates with a relatively moderate record are going out of their way to apologize for their past positions on issues and trying to present themselves as conservatively as they can,” wrote Robinson.

Romney’s decision not to participate in the August 15 straw poll may give Bachmann and the other candidates a chance to ride a stronger wave into the northeastern and southern states. Bachmann will want to finish strong in Iowa to maintain her “frontrunner” status.

Iowa may be the last bastion of traditional campaigning. Caucus participants who were interviewed for the poll mentioned they still rely on the evening news as the primary source of information, with newspapers closely behind. Few of the respondents said they used the Internet as a primary news source.

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