Just in time for President Obama's lowest approval rating since taking office (39 percent according to Gallup) the Republican presidential race is beginning to heat up! And by "heat up" we mean "crowd the field with über-conservative candidates that think evolution has 'never been proven' and who believe states can just secede from the Union."

After Michele Bachmann beat Ron Paul in a squeaker at yesterday's Ames Straw Poll in Iowa, Tim Pawlenty announced that he is dropping out of the race. Pawlenty needed a strong showing at the straw poll to stay alive. The Times' Nate Silver notes that data backs the assumption that the straw poll is a bellwether in projecting the Iowa caucus numbers, and Pawlenty just didn't make the cut. Bachmann was the first woman to ever win the straw poll, as well as the first woman to be caught on film experiencing a trance from eating a pyschotropic corn dog.

081411mitt.jpgThat inescapable urge you had yesterday to order your steak "country fried" was Texas Governor Rick Perry entering the race, claiming that it was "time to get America working again." Perry's entry spells trouble for Mitt Romney, who was hoping to claim the "job creator" mantle all to himself, but now must compete with Perry's (remarkably dismal) 10-year tenure in Texas. But hell, lets give the Lone Star State a chance. What could go wrong?

As the Times notes, these "rapid-fire developments are helping to push the Republican race toward a three-way contest" between Bachmann, Romney, and Perry. As part of this renewed frenzy, Bachmann appeared on all five political talk shows this morning, where she was asked repeatedly about her reactionary views.

When asked if she still believed her statement that being gay was akin to "personal bondage, personal despair, and personal enslavement," Bachmann told ABC's This Week, “I am not running to be any person’s judge. And I give—I ascribe dignity and honor to all people, no matter who they are. And that’s how I view people.”

She batted away criticism that her debt-ceiling antics in part caused the downgrade by blaming the president for it: “No wonder the markets would be roiled if we didn’t have a plan. I had one, unlike President Obama.” And to all the pointed questions about her social views: "All of these kind of questions aren’t what people are concerned about right now."

She should let Perry borrow that last line; the two will be at the same fundraiser this evening.