The Ames straw poll on Saturday was intended to give a sense of which way Iowa Republicans might vote when they hold their state caucuses next year. Each voter had to pay $25 to vote, although in practice the candidates paid for their supporters. And it was a self-selecting electorate, relying on Iowans to drive to the small college town to cast their votes.
Mr Bush had set his hat at winning, hoping to follow his father into the White House, and he did take 30 per cent of the 24,549 votes. But he had hoped for more than 40 per cent.
Mr Forbes surged into second place with 20 per cent, more than most pre- vote opinion polls had credited. He has cut Mr Bush's lead and superseded his conservative rivals to emerge as the second ranking contender. Elizabeth Dole, the moderate Republican, ran in third with a respectable 14 per cent.
The other moderate, John McCain, did not participate, calling the event a "sham", which in many respects it was, given the dominance of money. Mr Forbes is a millionaire, and drove many supporters in from across the state, and Mr Bush has raised record sums.
But it demonstrated that some candidates - notably Dan Quayle and Lamar Alexander - have no chance, and Mr Alexander, a former governor of Tennessee, is likely to leave the race next week. Mr Quayle, the former vice-president, will doubtless follow suit shortly.
The race has also clarified that Mr Bush's dominance is by no means as solid as it looked. Mr Forbes ran him a good second, and he will benefit as other right-wingers such as Mr Quayle call it a day. Mr Forbes spent millions on television and radio adverts, as well as hiring coaches to bring in his supporters.
And the tent he put up for those supporters was the only one with air- conditioning on a hot day. It paid off.
Iowa Straw Poll Result
Candidate Votes Percentage
1 George W Bush 7,418 30
2 Steve Forbes 4,921 20
3 Elizabeth Dole 3,410 14
4 Gary Bauer 2,114 9
5 Pat Buchanan 1,719 7
6 Lamar Alexander 1,428 6
7 Alan Keyes 1,101 4
8 Dan Quayle 916 4
9 Orrin Hatch 558 2
10 John McCain 83 0
11 John Kasich 9 0
12 Bob Smith 8 0
Does not include spoiled votes; John Kasich has withdrawnReuse content