It is safe to say that the past 5 days in the race for the Republican nomination have done some chiseling on the GOP field and we’re currently witnessing the new battlefield emerge. Following the withdraw if former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, the field narrows a bit while at the same time expanding to accommodate Texas Governor Rick Perry.
The new top tier roughly consists of Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry. However, some would argue that a 2nd place finish by Texas Congressman Ron Paul, within 1 point of Bachmann in the Iowa Straw Poll, puts him in top tier status as well.
Report from the LA Times:
The new top tier of Republican presidential contenders has emerged to reset the 2012 race and raise new questions about exactly where an angry GOP base will take the party in next year’s election.
The contest is now a three-way, multilayered match, with Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann rising to challenge each other and national front-runner Mitt Romney, after the Texas governor formally declared his candidacy and the Minnesota congresswoman won the year’s biggest organizing test.
Bachmann and Perry capitalized on their new prominence by appearing together for the first time at a party dinner in Waterloo, Iowa, late Sunday. The event opened a new and potentially defining phase of the nomination race: their head-to-head battle for the social and religious conservatives who dominate early-state caucuses and primaries.
Those tests, it seems increasingly clear, will be decided by an electorate fed up with Washington’s dysfunction and deeply worried that the U.S. is in decline economically and as a world power.
Party activists in Iowa, in a warning to the establishment of both major parties, forced Tim Pawlenty to abruptly quit the race Sunday, by dealing him a weak third-place finish in a straw poll Saturday that boosted Bachmann to the head of the field in the leadoff caucus state.
Watching the polls emerge in the next few days will be fascinating. Pawlenty’s supporters will have to land somewhere and it will either be Bachmann or Perry. Perhaps there will be a split and both candidates pick up a few points.
At this point, Mitt Romney is being handed a tougher uphill climb in regard to the Iowa Caucuses since both Bachmann and Perry will more easily court the socially conservative wing.