GOP Candidates Angling in Iowa Ahead of Straw Poll

July 19: Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.,  speaks during a political rally in downtown Aiken, S.C.

July 19: Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., speaks during a political rally in downtown Aiken, S.C.  (AP/The Augusta Chronicle)

For Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty and his GOP rivals, next month’s straw poll in Ames is a potential make or break moment. And to prepare, they must aggressively recruit supporters to cast ballots for them.

"I'm gonna need your help in this race,” Pawlenty said in Iowa Tuesday. “The Ames straw poll is coming up in a few weeks, Aug. 13!"

A new survey of Iowa caucus-goers conducted for TheConservativeJournalBlog.com by TCJ Research shows Michele Bachmann breaking away from the pack in the Hawkeye State with 33 percent of respondents saying she is their first choice.

The automated survey for the first time shows Pawlenty in a virtual tie for second place at 13 percent with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 12 percent—a stronger showing for Pawlenty than most recent polls.

Bachmann is surging in every poll, including a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey that shows Bachmann in second place nationally with 16 percent to Romney’s 30 percent.

But now, Bachmann faces questions about her health. She suffers recurring migraine headaches, has occasionally left the floor of the House of Representatives when it was in session and has admitted herself in to urgent care clinics and hospitals.

“I have prescribed medication that I take on occasion whenever symptoms arise and they keep my migraines under control,” Bachmann read from a prepared statement while campaigning in South Carolina. “But I'd like to be abundantly clear: My ability to function effectively will not affect my ability to serve as commander in chief.”

Earlier Tuesday, Bachmann courted religious conservatives at the South Carolina Christian Chamber of Commerce.

As Texas Gov. Rick Perry inches closer to joining the race, he spoke via satellite to another group of South Carolina Christian conservatives. On Tuesday night in his home city of Austin, Perry will meet with 50 major fundraisers & donors who would make the core of his money machine if he ran. If Perry wants to be on the straw poll ballot in Ames, organizers say his name will appear.

Businessman Herman Cain was third in Iowa polls a month ago but has lost ground in the wake of various controversial comments about, among other things, attacking Iran, blocking mosques in the U.S., and now, Romney's Mormon faith.

“When he ran the first time, he did not do a good job of communicating his religion,” Cain said. “Unfortunately - it doesn't bother me - but I do know that it is an issue with a lot of Southerners."

Romney is slipping in Iowa polls. Aides say he held a conference call with 10,000 Iowa Republicans Monday night. But Romney aides also claimed he raised $10 million in one day recently. The real total turned out to be a fifth of that.