Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann edged Texas Rep. Ron Paul in Saturday's Iowa Straw Poll, leaving former governor Tim Pawlenty a distant third.
Bachmann, who used her Iowa connection (she was born and raised in Waterloo) to woo Straw Poll voters, addressed a throng of supporters from the steps of her tour bus.
"This is the very first step to the White House," she said. "We're taking the country back and it started in Iowa."
Deeann Schreiner of Atlantic came to Ames Saturday to drop her daughter off for her freshman year at Iowa State University. She stopped by the Straw Poll festivities to be see how Bachmann, her GOP favorite, was faring.
"I just heard the news," she said. "I would love to see her as president. She's something different. A change."
Future young Republicans Sindhuja Damo, 7, of Johnston and Sivani Manimaran, 7, of Ames had their T-shirts autographed as Bachmann made her way through the crowd.
"She's gonna change the USA," said Damo. "She'll be a good president."
With 16,892 ballots cast, Bachmann won 4,823 votes, Paul had 4,671 and Pawlenty received 2,293. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who announced his candidacy Saturday in South Carolina, finished fifth.
Mitt Romney, who did not actively compete in Iowa but has been considered the Republican front-runner, finished seventh.
The Straw Poll, while not binding, is important because it is the first major test of message and organizational strength among the candidates seeking the GOP nomination for president of the United States.
Tim Hagle, a political science professor at the University of Iowa, said the Straw Poll is usually a process where candidates are winnowed out by not meeting expectations. But since things this time went as planned, people might not see as many drop outs as usual.
"They all kind of fit in where we expect them to be," he said.
Casey Mills, spokesman for the Iowa GOP, said that turnout was higher for this year's Straw Poll because of a combination of no clear front-runner and a motivated Republican base.
"The energy is all on the Republican side," he said. In 2007, 14,302 votes were cast compared to 16,892 this year. Mitt Romney won the last Straw Poll.
"I was thrilled completely by the results," said Victoria Archer, from near Des Moines, a Bachmann supporter on hand at the Hilton Coliseum in Ames to hear the result. "It's going to set the foundation. She is going to go all the way."
Votes were cast in a fair-like atmosphere on the campus of Iowa State University. All day, tents sponsored by various candidates were filled with food, drink, entertainers and pleas for votes.
Iowans wishing to vote had to pony up $30 to do so -- which in most cases was paid by whatever candidate they promised to support. At times during the day, people waited 30-45 minutes to cast their votes.
More to come.