Bachmann, Perry Shake Up GOP 2012 Field

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- A big weekend caused some major shuffling in the Republican Presidential race. 

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and her husband celebrated as the so-called "queen of the Tea Party" claimed a new title, Iowa GOP frontrunner, after winning the Ames, Iowa straw poll.

"God has mightily put his hand of blessing upon this nation," Bachmann said. "We could never think that we did this ourselves. It was an almighty God that gave this to us and to him we owe honor and praise and blessing."

The Minnesota congresswoman's win proved her campaign's organizational strength, especially with evangelicals.

"We enjoy Michele Bachmann," one person said. "She's a godly woman."

Perry Enters Race

Bachmann relied heavily on church-goers who came on buses and even an 80-car caravan. But the Iowa native can expect stiff competition here for the important evangelical vote in the form of Rick Perry.

Iowa supporters of Perry watched with excitement Sunday as the Texas governor made his entry into 2012 presidential race official.

"I declare to you today as a candidate for the President of the United States," he told the audience.

"He supports prayer and Christian beliefs," on person noted.

Gerson Moreno-Riano, dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies at Regent University, talked more about the evolving GOP field on the CBN News Channel's Morning News. Click below for his analysis.

The Bachmann campaign told CBN News that they will take the fight to Perry, and that was evident Sunday evening when both candidates campaigned at the same event in Waterloo, Iowa.

The Palin Factor

Both candidates appeal to evangelical voters, but if former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin gets in the race -- that could change everything."

Palin, who could potentially take votes away from Bachmann and Perry told CBN News that her decision is coming shorty - perhaps around September or October.

"I think that that is a fair timeline for people because Fall time, they can start getting engaged with different campaigns," she said, adding that she was "still thinking about it and really, really desiring to be a participant in the positive change that needs to happen in this country."

This fight may well be defined by which candidate can combine a fiscal Tea Party message along with one filled with traditional values. One guy who knows about that is former 2012 hopeful Mike Huckabee, who won the last straw poll.

"The mistake being made by some is to say these value issues don't matter this year," he observed. "You'll find out as everyone will find out it matters a lot this year because without strong families, you can't have a strong economy."

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum embraced that message, spent more time in Iowa than any other candidate, and came in 4th in the straw poll.

"This is one of 68 counties now that I have visited here in Iowa," Santorum recently told an audience.

"We can't have a strong economy, for example, unless we have people that live good and decent and moral lives," he added.

Pawlenty Drops Bid

A third place finish meant the end of the road for Tim Pawlenty who dropped out on Sunday. Perhaps the loudest message from this weekend is that there are still many votes to be won.

"I'm keeping my eyes and ears open right now," said one undecided voter. "Not making any decisions yet."

Another woman expressed similar sentiment, saying "I don't have opinions yet. I'm still deciding. It's too early."

It's not only early, but  with a handful of fall debates on the horizon with a possible new formidable contender in Perry, the landscape will just continue to change at a pretty rapid pace before voters in Iowa become the first to go to the polls in early February.

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David Brody is an Emmy Award-winning veteran news journalist who has interviewed many prominent national figures during his career of nearly 25 years. Currently, David covers the White House and interviews national newsmakers across the country.  Follow David on Twitter @TheBrodyFile and "like" him at Facebook.com/TheBrodyFile.