Ames, Iowa (CNN) - Iowa Rep. Steve King said Saturday that the ideal Ames Straw Poll candidate isn’t running.
“If you had Michele Bachmann as a candidate, and the network that Tim Pawlenty has put together over the last couple of years here, you would have a formidable combination,” the Republican told CNN after he addressed some two dozen supporters in a tent outside the straw poll venue. “But it looks like Minnesota doesn’t get along that well.”
Bachmann and Pawlenty have been doing battle in Iowa for the last two months in the run up to the straw poll, and tensions between the two camps broke out into the open during Thursday’s GOP presidential debate when the two Republicans engaged a series of sharp exchanges about their qualifications to be president.
King said a Bachmann victory in the straw poll would probably be fueled by her natural appeal to grassroots conservatives, not her organizational prowess.
“It’s the force of her personality and herself as a candidate,” said King, a Bachmann ally in the House.
More than 14,000 ballots were cast in the 2007 straw poll. With an energized GOP base and an ideal weather forecast, Iowa Republicans are saying the total could be even higher on Saturday.
King said a low turnout would favor Texas Rep. Ron Paul, long a top performer at straw polls.
“If it’s a low turnout, I think that Ron Paul has been underestimated because he has worked here for five years and he has a loyal group of followers,” he said. “He will get a high percentage of his followers here today.”
A high turnout contest will come down to Pawlenty and Bachmann, he said.
“The measure you want to look at is, has the money and organization that Pawlenty has put together here, is that enough to offset the energy of the Bachmann campaign?,” King asked.