How else could you explain Michele Bachmann actually being taken seriously as a presidential candidate?  She came out on top, so to speak, of the Ames Straw Poll.

Interesting, too, that the “front-runner” Mitt Willard Romney had such a poor showing.  OK, I know he didn’t actually participate – but neither did Sarah Palin, and she’s not even a declared candidate, and she fared better than he did!

In case you’re wondering the exact breakdown (courtesy of MSNBC)…

2011 Straw Poll Full Results (Votes, %)
1. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (4823, 28.55%)
2. Congressman Ron Paul (4671, 27.65%)
3. Governor Tim Pawlenty (2293, 13.57%)
4. Senator Rick Santorum (1657, 9.81%)
5. Herman Cain(1456, 8.62%)
6. Governor Rick Perry (718, 3.62%) write-in
7. Governor Mitt Romney (567, 3.36%)
8. Speaker Newt Gingrich (385, 2.28%)
9. Governor Jon Huntsman (69, 0.41%)
10. Congressman Thad McCotter (35, 0.21%)
Scattering (162, 0.96 %) Includes all those receiving votes at less than one-percent that were not on the ballot.

Of course, that doesn’t really mean anything at all, as the Ames Straw Poll is nothing more than an expensive dog and pony show.  But it was enough to cause Tim Pawlenty (the guy who Lawrence O’Donnell stated, unequivocally, would be the GOP nominee) to drop out!

So ended a very, very weird week…

On the show this morning, I spoke with the very, very smart Jeff Sharlet.   The man who told us more about the secretive religious cult in Washington DC known as The Family in The Family, is back with a brand new book  in stores today – Sweet Heaven When I Die: Faith, Faithlessness, and the Country In Between. He described the book like this in an email:

It’s a collection of 13 portraits and personal essays, some new and some gathered from my writing for Harper’s,Rolling Stone & Oxford American. They’re bound together by my affection for self-made, self-invented people, heroic & otherwise.

Among them: an accidental anarchist martyr; a would-be David in the pop machine and his sad Goliath; a hell house preacher; Chava Rosenfarb, the last great Yiddish writer; Cornel West, a theologian of the blues; Dock Boggs, the nastiest banjo player who ever lived; and the denizens of “Sweet Fuck All, Colorado,” the Rocky Mountain last-chance bar that would have given the book its title if I’d had a little more nerve.

As a collection of nonfiction stories, SWEET HEAVEN WHEN I DIE is what publishers call a “small book,” but it means more to me than any of my others. These are the stories I wrote to keep myself sane during my long immersion in American fundamentalism for my last two books. I hope you’ll give this one a look and help it find a place in the world.

As tempting as that description sounded, our conversation about it made me even more enthusiastic about reading it.  In addition to talking about the new book, we also spoke about today’s scary intersection of religion and politics, the rise of the “New Apostolic Reformation”, the “Teavangelists”, Rick Perry, Barack Obama, and more…

As she does every Monday morning, Crooks & Liars’ Nicole Belle joins me for a discussion – usually dissecting the Sunday talking head shows. Today, though, we took a look/listen to the GOP presidential wannabes, the debate and their ridiculous appearances in Iowa last week.

Tomorrow on the show, David Cobb of Move to Amend and The Political Carnival‘s GottaLaff join me… talk to you then!