Several months ago, Michele Bachmann, the outspoken congresswoman from Minnesota known for her hard-line and sometimes controversial statements, jolted into the presidential race, shaking up the entire field with her tea party credentials and socially conservative bona fides.
But her rise to the top of the pack didn't last too long. Earlier this month, Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas, jumped into the race with a bang. Touting his economic record in the Lone Star State and becoming a voracious advocate for limited government, Perry, who is known to wear cowboy boots and speak in a deep Texas accent, began winning over some of Bachmann's supporters.
A CNN poll released Monday showed Perry as the candidate of choice for 32 percent of Republican voters, with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who has also been considered a front runner in the race, followed with 18 percent. Bachmann had to settle into the third spot with 12 percent.
The Republican primary is shaping up to be looking like three-way race between Bachmann, Perry and Romney.
It's hard to see how any of the others break through, Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, told U.S. News and World Report earlier this month. Surprises happen, but it's going to be tough.
Despite holding similar policy, candidates such as former Sen. Rick Santorum and businessman Herman Cain have failed to gain significant buzz in the election. Furthermore, Sarah Palin has yet to announce if she was joining the presidential fray. But analysts such as Sabato note that the top-tier Republican candidates have made too much inroads with voters for her to make a significant dent in the race.
Sabato notes that Perry and Bachmann will have to duke it out to win over the Tea Party and evangelical Christian conservative candidates. This could provide an opening for Mitt Romney, although Romney has attempted to align his campaign with a more Tea Party friendly platform.
Some would consider the front runner status a curse rather than a blessing. Four years ago, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani was the front runner for the Republican nomination, only to not win a single primary. Sen. John McCain, whose campaign was left for dead by summer 2007, came back to win the New Hampshire primary and ultimately the nomination.
The current occupant of the White House wasn't always the front-runner either. Leading up to the primaries, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton held significant poll advantages over then-Sen. Barack Obama. However, after a win in the Iowa Caucus, Obama was able to compete with Clinton and ultimately edged her for the Democratic nod.
Fortunately for Bachmann, her showing is still strong in Iowa. She won the Ames Straw Poll a couple weeks ago, and while Sabato told USNWR that the Ames showing was a phony real event, the straw poll gave her considerable media attention, and showed that her ground organization was in place. Polls still show Bachmann running strong in Iowa. If she were able to seek out a win in Iowa, that could propel her in other states and allow her to win the Republican race.