Image: Rep. Michele Bachmann
Sean Gardner  /  REUTERS
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., has nearly matched Mitt Romney in the first Iowa Poll of the season.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 6/26/2011 12:27:45 AM ET 2011-06-26T04:27:45

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann are neck and neck atop the Des Moines Register Iowa Poll on the Republican presidential field, the newspaper reported Saturday.

In the first Iowa Poll of this campaign cycle, Romney got 23 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers, and Bachmann got 22 percent, the newspaper said.

Romney has been the GOP frontrunner in national polls and announced his candidacy June 2. But tea party favorite Bachmann is only officially announcing her campaign on Monday, in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa.

“She’s up there as a real competitor and a real contender,” Republican pollster Randy Gutermuth, who is unaffiliated with any of the candidates, told the Register. “This would indicate that she’s going to be a real player in Iowa.”

Former Godfather’s CEO Herman Cain was third with 10 percent, despite never holding public office.

All the other candidates were in single digits, the Register said.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul had 7 percent each; former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, 6 percent; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, 4 percent; and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, 2 percent.

Pawlenty has been the most aggressive about campaigning in Iowa, having lined up top Iowa and national consultants. He ran the 2012 campaign's first Republican candidate television advertisements last week. Pawlenty has spent 26 days in Iowa during this election cycle, the Register noted.

Gingrich's campaign has struggled with widespread staff resignations. Huntsman has said he will not campaign in Iowa.

Iowa is the leadoff caucus state of the presidential nominating process. Its caucuses are Feb. 6.

Bachmann, a three-term congresswoman, is supported by many tea party members. But her delay in announcing her official entry had left political players in Iowa wondering she had the commitment to build the kind of campaign that has led past winners of the Iowa caucuses to success.

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Her absence also has allowed Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose no-nonsense style attracts social conservatives who might support Bachmann, to creep into the Iowa discussion and begin to set up a campaign infrastructure in the event he gets in.

Video: Poll: Support grows for Bachmann

Bachmann has visited Iowa four times this year and hired two senior caucus staffers, although neither have extensive campaign experience. She also has landed Republican strategist Ed Rollins, a senior adviser to 2008 caucus winner Mike Huckabee.

Like Huckabee, Bachmann draws support from evangelical pastors and Christian home-school advocates. However, Huckabee spent much of the previous two years before the 2008 caucus getting to know Iowa Republicans, while Bachmann's effort began in January.

The Iowa Poll's results are based on telephone interviews with 400 likely Republican Iowa caucus-goers from June 19 to 22. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

This article contains reporting from msnbc.com staff and The Associated Press.

© 2013 msnbc.com

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