AMES, Iowa -- It'll shock a lot of people if Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., does not win the straw poll today. I took this video at around 2:45 p.m., as people who'd already voted for Bachmann got into line to grab some food or see the entertainment in her tent.
Bachmann and Ron Paul have the largest crowds here, by miles. She has an air conditioned tent with a stage and a faux gazebo; Paul has most of the area in between the two big campus buildings, with an outdoor stage that's given over to speakers, and smaller tents with free food.
After taking that video, I walked back into Bachmann's tent and ran into Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tex. He's a colleague of Paul's; his governor had just announced his presidential bid. And Gohmert likely wouldn't be a congressman if not for Perry. His district was created in 2004, after a rare mid-cycle redistricting. But he was still most supportive of Bachmann.
"Rick's not the conservative that Michele is," he said.
The stakes are higher for Bachmann today, and if this really looks like a blowout, there'll be more focus on her margin than her win. If Paul wins, the party is ready to brush it off.
"If Paul wins today, he peaked," said Ken Crow, the founder of the Tea Party of America, who was making the rounds with Iowa's unofficial Sarah Palin organizer, Peter Singleton.