First thing to remember is the previous 5 Straw Polls record of winners is not very good. It predicted twice (and tied once) the winner of the Iowa Caucus and only twice the winner of the Republican Nominee. (Bob Dole was a tie in 1995, W was correctly selected in 1999), and only ONCE has it selected the winner of the Presidency. President Pat Robinson never made it very far:^). Last time around approx 15,000 voters participated, and you have to PAY to vote, so $$$ can effect your turnout and the vote. (BTW John McCain took took 10th place last cycle!)
With that said it's still a fun excersize to look at the race, so here's my predictions:
With 2 Minnesotans in the race the Bachmann vs. T. Paw is the most intriguing. T.Paw has practically moved to Iowa for the past 4 months..but I still think he will do 4th place at best. If he makes the top 3 or somehow beats Bachmann he'll be reinvigorated, if he takes 4th or worse I think he drops out soon.
Michelle Bachmann I predict will win closely, or second place. It will be a real boost to her and will mobilize some of the TEA Party support from the Herman Cain campaign and whatever T.Paw's supporters might remain. *
Herman Cain should come in 4th or 5th probably very close to T.Paws %'s. He'll be able to stay in with those numbers..If he does worse than 5th he might decide it's not his year, but I think he'll soldier on. He's a great guy to have in the race!
Ron Paul should take 2nd place..but could pull out a first place..every Straw Poll he gets into his peeps show up and vote, and he usually wins. the RPer's are very dedicated and I think RP stays in the race thru the end, even if he's an also ran. He'll keep making his case which will allow Romney or Perry look more moderate to the rest of the electorate.
Mitt Romney doesn't have to place in the top 5 to be considered a win. (He won last time with 32% of the vote, but he also wrote out some BIG checks to get his people to the event, Interestingly Mike Huckabee supporters used Mitt's money, and his buses, to get to the Ames event and then voted for the Huckster who placed 2nd on Mitt's $$$), Romney decided not to pay to play this time..but I still think he will come in 3rd, anything better than 3rd will scare away a lot of the lesser candidates, who might decide to jump out of the race.
So my prediction is:
Michelle Bachmann 1st
Ron Paul 2nd
Mitt Romney 3rd
Tim Pawlenty 4th
Herman Cain 5th
Santorum, Gingrich and Huntsman could find themselves lower than Perry and Palin who might be write-in candidates. Should either Perry or Palin place in the top 5 using write in ballots only...it'll be a huge factor to the Bachmann, Cain and Pawlenty campaigns. Romney and Paul will be uneffected at this point.
I think Huntsman and T.Paw will drop out in the next few weeks, unless they out perform today. I still think Palin will not run. If somehow Herman Cain places last he will probably drop out..but i don't think he'll be last.
*Now that Rick Perry is getting in and is trying to Big foot the Ames Poll by announcing today...If I was Michelle Bachmann, and I won the Straw Poll as I have suggested..she should immediately, this week, announce that she is throwing her support behind Perry , Romney, or the TEA Party..and declaring that she will be better running against Amy Klobuchar for the US Senate seat in Minnesota. Her credentials will make her the instant front-runner in that primary, and will give Klobuchar a serious run, in an otherwise safe seat for her. If Bachmann's win comes today..this will be her peak in the campaign..she can either capture that energy and win in a bottle, or become more irrelevant every day from now on.