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All Eyes on Ames Straw Poll in Final Hours

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) greets Rep. Steve King, (R-Iowa), before addressing a crowd at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, on Friday.

There was no limit on flattery for the Iowa fair crowd. A couple of hours later, former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) declared the exposition the "best state fair in the country."

Bachmann capped off the soapbox program by giving brief remarks to one of the largest standing crowds. The Waterloo, Iowa, native moved to the podium with a large entourage before reminding the crowd her remarks were, "From one Iowan to another!"

Immediately after her speech, a gay rights activist from Minnesota confronted Bachmann on her stance against same-sex marriage. She didn't engage the activist, but her supporters did. Eventually the crowd dissipated into quarrels between gay rights activists, Bachmann and Paul supporters. Someone screamed at the activist, "You belong in New York."

But the fair's biggest political attraction was far from the Des Moines Register's stage in between fried Oreo and pork-on-a-stick vendors.

Former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and her husband were crashing the party. Palin popped up mid-day Friday near the cattle barn.

It wasn't long before throngs of supporters and reporters descended on the Alaskan couple. Palin answered questions for more than an hour as she worked her way through lines of livestock, telling reporters that when it comes to a potential presidential campaign, "We'll try to figure it out as we go a couple of different places."

Thousands of miles away from Iowa, Texas Gov. Rick Perry was preparing to tell a conservative confab in South Carolina that he would run for president.

The 2012 contest is starting to sizzle just like the pork steaks Pawlenty flipped for supporters at the fair, no matter Saturday's results.

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