Michele Bachmann may be the first candidate to officially terminate her campaign since voting season kicked off last night, but she was hardly the weakest figure in the field.
The story of the unraveling of her once promising presidential bid is a complex one best left to those journalists with access to her former staffers, including those who defected from the campaign in dramatic fashion in both Iowa and New Hampshire. I imagine the exchanges between Bachmann and her senior advisers on the campaign bus in the waning days of 2011 tell a compelling story of political calamity utterly at odds with the effervescent demeanor she presented to the public.
On the surface, however, it seems relatively simple to diagnose some of the factors that stopped Bachmann in her tracks without winning a single county, including Black Hawk County, where she was born. Let's take a look:
1) Even an effective one-liner such as "let's make Barack Obama a one term president" goes stale with time. Instead of exploring the various rhetorical angles from which to assault a deeply vulnerable president in the eyes of what should have been her solidly-supportive voting blocs in Iowa and elsewhere, Bachmann stuck to refining her initial pitch. To her credit, she proved herself to be an effective and articulate debater, but with time became predictable, occasionally shrill, and even her original supporters fled to fresher pastures.
2) Scheduling. Had there been a final debate in the closing days before the Iowa Caucus, I have a hunch Bachmann might have been able to leapfrog past Rick Perry and claim his 10% finish (versus her 5% result) by drawing sharp contrasts between her retail politicking and his scripted style. Additionally, Bachmann's good graces with Newt Gingrich in past debates could have caused a portion of his departing supporters as he nosedived in late December.
But outside of Iowa, the road was bound to become rockier, as the impending negative publicity that will no doubt accompany Bachmann's likely abysmal finish in New Hampshire next week would further set back her candidacy, even thought she professes that her sights are squarely set on South Carolina.
3) Finally, it has begun to dawn on Tea Party supporters that even freshman Tea Party legislators who pledged to never compromise on budget issues are being forced to do so more and more. This is obviously upsetting to many voters who expected their representatives to never step down, but Bachmann's rigidity and firm opposition to compromise fails at the end of the day to take into account the evolving notions of what strategies and attitudes will be successful in advancing the Tea Party agenda any further in Washington.
It's odd to think that a candidate could become too staunch an advocate of her own cause, but in appearing as too much of a throwback figurehead for a movement that's only now discovering the limitations of abiding by a strict dogma, Bachmann found a way to discredit her electability argument with the very voters who it appeared would likely stand beside her through the long haul.