Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., are the two clear, early Republican frontrunners for the Iowa caucuses, according to the results of the first Des Moines Register poll released tonight.
The poll shows Romney and Bachmann in a dead heat for first place. Romney wins support from 23 percent of likely caucusgoers, while Bachmann comes close to matching him, with 22 percent.
The results are a major boost for Bachmann, a Tea Party favorite who is kicking off her campaign on Monday and whose social and fiscal conservatism has been resonating with state Republican activists. She also turned in a strong performance in the most recent debate.
Finishing a distant sixth is former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who has poured early resources into the state. He has spent 26 days in the state, while Romney has concentrated his focus on New Hampshire. Pawlenty just went up with a small television ad buy introducing himself to Iowa voters - the ads ran the final day the poll was in the field - but it hasn't had an impact, at least not yet.
Pawlenty's campaign is concentrating on a strong performance in the August Ames straw poll. A strong result can be a springboard to future successes in the state, but if these numbers are any indication, he has a lot of catching up to do.
The poll found businessman Herman Cain is in third place, with 10 percent, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., are tied for fourth with 7 percent of the vote apiece. Former Utah governor and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman is in dead last, with just two percent.