A humiliating finish is enough to force her out of the race, but maybe not Rick Perry
Michele Bachmann is calling it quits. The Minnesota congresswoman, who finished dead last among those who contested the state with 5 percent of the vote, made her departure official at a late morning press conference in Des Moines.
“Last night, the people of Iowa spoke with a very clear voice, and so I have decided to stand aside,” she said.
She didn’t endorse any of the other candidates, but her exit is clearly good news for Rick Santorum, who effectively battled Mitt Romney to a first-place tie in Iowa. Santorum’s chances of winning the nomination depend on consolidating as much of the party’s conservative base as possible and making a stand in South Carolina, which will vote on Jan. 21. (Because expectations in New Hampshire are so high for Romney and so low for Santorum, it’s unlikely that the Granite State will settle the major questions that define the GOP contest.)
But just as Bachmann finished speaking, Santorum’s quest to unite the right took a hit, when Rick Perry — who announced in his concession speech last night that he was heading back to Texas to reassess his presidential bid — tweeted that he was moving on to South Carolina after all. While Perry netted just 10 percent in Iowa and has seemingly no chance of winning the nomination, his presence in the Palmetto State could split up the anti-Romney right, giving the former Massachusetts governor a possible path to what would be a momentous victory.
However, there is now confusion over whether that Perry tweet was supposed to be sent out. His spokesman told Politico that Perry’s declaration was news to him, raising the possibility that the tweet had been scheduled to go out before last night’s results came in. NBC News, though, is saying that it has confirmed that Perry is staying in the race and heading to South Carolina.
If Perry does press on, the example of 2008, when John McCain used a narrow South Carolina victory to cement his standing as the GOP front-runner, will loom large. Like Romney, McCain faced profound resistance among Republicans in the state, where his 2000 bid against George W. Bush had crumbled apart. But he benefited from the lingering presence of Fred Thompson, whose post-Iowa prospects were as dim as Perry’s now are but who used his remaining money in a desperate effort to make a stand in South Carolina. The 16 percent that Thompson ended up netting likely deprived Mike Huckabee of conservative support he otherwise would have enjoyed, and Huckabee lost to McCain by 3 points.
The South Carolina and Iowa Republican universes are fairly similar, with evangelical Christians accounting for about 60 percent of each state’s presidential primary season electorate. Entrance polling data last night showed Santorum winning 32 percent of Iowa’s GOP evangelicals, with Romney at just 14 percent. Bachmann received 6 percent, Perry nabbed 14, and Newt Gingrich — who is staying in the race and vowing to target Romney aggressively — got 14 percent. The more Santorum can gobble up the evangelical support that those three now enjoy, the better his odds in South Carolina will be.
Steve Kornacki writes about politics for Salon. Reach him by email at SKornacki@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @SteveKornacki More Steve Kornacki.
More Related Stories
- Cuomo: "Shame on us" if New York City elects Weiner
- Coburn calls questions about tornado aid "typical Washington B.S."
- Conspiracy theorists clash over London attack
- Voting is not a right
- Destroying the planet for record profits
- Ahead of Obama's speech, U.S. acknowledges four American drone killings
- Pic of the day: Barack Obama at prom
- Anti-Islam backlash in London after machete attack
- Must-see morning clip: Bill O'Reilly visits "The Daily Show"
- Obama’s drone speech will probably be maddening
- Boehner: "Inconceivable" Obama didn't know about IRS targeting
- Obama to announce new effort to close Guantanamo Bay
- House supporters of KXL received $56m from fossil fuel industry
- Judge tells lesbian couple to separate -- or lose kids
- Obama to address drones, Guantánamo
- If Alex Pareene were a cable news executive...
- Portland's senseless war on fluoride
- Graphic video reportedly shows possible London machete attack suspect
- What economists get wrong about the jobs crisis
- Ted Cruz: "I don't trust the Republicans"
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11
War Room is our political news and commentary blog, with coverage and commentary throughout the day.