Bachmann wins Republican straw poll
The 2012 Republican presidential race heated up as latecomer Texas Governor Rick Perry formally announced his candidacy and Iowans weighed in for the first time on their expanding field of presidential hopefuls, picking US Representative Michele Bachmann as their top choice for the party's nomination.
Together, the events were certain to reshuffle the race to face President Barack Obama who has become increasingly vulnerable because of the sputtering economic recovery.
Nearly a dozen Republicans are seeking the chance to challenge Mr Obama in November 2012 for the leadership of a country facing a recent downgrade in its credit rating, high unemployment and Wall Street tumult.
Mrs Bachmann - a favourite of the small government, low tax tea party movement with a following among evangelicals who make up the Republican base in Iowa and elsewhere - got more than 28% of the 17,000 votes cast in the non-binding straw poll.
It provides clues about each candidate's level of support and campaign organisation five months before the Iowa caucuses kick off the presidential nomination season.
"We are going to make Barack Obama a one-term president," Mrs Bachmann declared to cheers on the campus of Iowa State University during a day-long political festival.
A few hours later, after learning she had won the straw poll, she said: "This is the very first step toward taking back the White House!"
US Representative Ron Paul of Texas, who has support among libertarian-leaning voters, came in a close second. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty was looking for a strong showing to boost his struggling campaign, but fared a distant third, raising questions about the future of his candidacy.
Mr Perry's nationally televised announcement of his candidacy in the first-in-the-South primary state of South Carolina came - not coincidentally - on the same day as the Iowa straw poll, and his entrance in the field capped a remarkable turn of events. As recently as a few months ago, Mr Perry foreswore any interest in running for president.
He reversed course after it became clear that the Republican establishment was not rallying around any single candidate and that many in the party's base had reservations about their choices, including former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, until now the front-runner in early polls four years after losing his first presidential campaign.