That Michele Bachmann has made a swift, terrifying rise to the top of the Republican candidate pool is not in dispute.
But Tim Pawlenty finishing second in a new poll of Iowa voters should be stunning to everyone, including his spokesman. Pawlenty's been running so poorly in recent polls that his campaign is lowering expectations for the all-important Aug. 13 Ames, Ia. straw poll.
"We want to show progress in Ames," Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant told the Natonal Journal, "better than sixth or seventh."
Sixth or seventh? For the two-term governor of a neighboring state, a guy who's basically lived in Iowa since 2006, finishing in fifth place would be "progress"?
But things are looking up. This phony new poll is out, an Iowa voter called him "the incarnation of President Bush," and Pawlenty's getting bullied by Mickey Mouse. He'll probably be president by the end of August.
The poll that shows Pawlenty running in a distant second place to Bachmann comes from The Conservative Journal, an otherwise obscure political blog.
In their latest survey, Bachmann dominates all comers with 33 percent of the vote. Then comes the shocker, with Pawlenty's 13 percent support putting him just above Mitt Romney, who's at 12 percent.
In all other polls, Bachmann and Romney had been running neck and neck for first place, while Pawlenty was gradually descending toward 0 percent. The explanation for Pawlenty's sudden rise might be found in The Conservative Journal's site, where TCJ Research is described as "a very loose arm of The Conservative Journal," which is a website no one's heard of.
"Our polls are conducted by a great friend of mine who operates a market research firm and agreed to do our polls under the condition that we leave his company name out of the equation so clients aren't influenced by the fact that he conducts polls for a conservative website. It's a stipulation that, while inconvenient, we're more than willing to live with in exchange for quality polls. We know we'll probably never be taken 100% seriously until we can be 100% transparent (which we understand), but until then, those of us who don't live to doubt can enjoy the fun!"Oh, what fun Tim Pawlenty's been having these days!
Earlier this week, Conant, his spokesman, told the National Journal that anything fifth place or better in the Ames straw poll would be great news. This was probably due to the fact that in most polls Pawlenty's losing to Sarah Palin and Rick Perry, who aren't actually running.
Then, an Iowa voter confronted Pawlenty on whether he'd pass balanced budgets as president. When Pawlenty hedged, the man described him as "an incarnation of George Bush," who was literally the most unpopular president of all time when he left office.
Don't worry, Tim, next week will probably be better. It couldn't possible be worse.