Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bachmann's Closing Window

MARSHALLTOWN, IA. – Michele Bachmann hasn’t been rocked by scandal, personal or political. Few of her supporters whisper about any unsavory revelations they’re afraid could emerge in coming months. Even Bachmann’s confusion over which state started the American Revolution ended up as fodder for liberal media and was overlooked by most conservatives. In spite of all of this, Bachmann has suffered two high-profile defections from her campaign at crucial moments.


The first occurred in late October, when the Congresswoman’s New Hampshire staff quit in protest of a perceived lack of seriousness in Bachmann’s effects to succeed in the state, as well as charges that her national staff were unresponsive and, according to the staff’s joint public statement:
"The manner in which some in the national team conducted themselves towards Team NH was rude, unprofessional, dishonest, and at times cruel. But more concerning was how abrasive, discourteous, and dismissive some within the national team were towards many New Hampshire citizens." 
Bachmann would have had trouble regaining her footing in New Hampshire without this setback, but on the heels of a multi-day visit to the state in early October, the news further stunted the growth of whatever efforts were underway on her behalf. Not surprisingly, Bachmann hasn’t returned to the state since.


If Bachmann finishes in the middle of the pack in Iowa and decides her campaign is worth carrying on, she’ll be forced with the difficult decision of whether to revisit New Hampshire or instead spend a full two weeks in South Carolina drumming up support in advance of that state’s January 21st election. Bachmann’s campaign strategists have long maintained that the Iowa and South Carolina are states where she can succeed and gather steam before the campaign moves further afield, but her plan ignores the consequences of an abysmal finish in New Hampshire (can you say below Buddy Roemer?) and the subsequent lack of attention the national media will have for her.


Far from the Huntsman approach of skipping Iowa altogether, Bachmann initially viewed New Hampshire as a “competitive” state for her campaign, and she won’t so easily able to dismiss her results there after her unsuccessful pitch in the state. That challenging Iowa and South Carolina “path to the nomination” seems increasingly unlikely after Wednesday’s news that Bachmann’s Iowa co-director, Kent Sorenson, has resigned his position with the campaign and intends to caucus for none other than Ron Paul, who engaged in a long argument with Bachmann over foreign policy in the most recent debate.

Bachmann is the first candidate to begin hearing calls for her to suspend her campaign. Last night, reporters outside of Rick Santorum's evening campaign stop in Marshalltown (at the same restaurant where Bachmann had been the previous day) asked whether or not he would encourage Bachmann supporters to switch their allegiance to him in an effort to unite religious conservatives. Santorum graciously deflected the question, insisting he is courting the votes of all Iowans, but the answer was clear: Iowans have failed to coalesce around Bachmann, and the few strengths her campaign purports to still possess have all but dried up. I surveyed one table of elderly voters inside the Legends Bar and Grill after Bachmann's visit and asked if the candidate's roots in the state would benefit her come caucus day; the "hometown" girl wouldn't have been pleased with their lack of enthusiasm.


In the final days before Iowa, final judgment of the various candidates is handed down quickly and often cements powerful “closing narratives” in the minds of voters that they carry with them to the Caucus. For Bachmann’s social conservative opponent, Rick Santorum, it’s taken all of 48 hours for the media to anoint him a rising star in the Iowa contest as he rocketed into a competitive third place position (behind Romney and Paul) in new polls. For Bachmann, the embarrassing news surrounding Sorenson's departure and the strengthening media consensus that her campaign is in its final days could be the nail in the coffin for a candidate that desperately needs at least a third place Caucus finish, a result that seems increasingly unlikely she will achieve.

View the complete gallery from Bachmann's Marshalltown, Iowa visit in a full-screen slide show here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great commentary! Keep it up.