Rick Perry Wins Round One Against Michele Bachmann

A showdown in Bachmann's hometown of Waterloo goes to the race's newcomer

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Michele Bachmann has been the most glamorous star of the Republican nomination fight so far -- winning dueling magazine covers last week -- but now there's a new girl in town, with hair that's just as beautiful, soaking up all the attention. Rick Perry proved a tough act to follow for Bachmann Sunday night, even in her own hometown of Waterloo, Iowa. Perry, having jumped into the presidential race the day before, "schooled" Bachmann at a dinner for the Black Hawk County Republican Party, according to Politico's Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin. Bachmann is known for her personal touch with voters, but Sunday she "campaigned like a celebrity," hanging out in her trailer (bus), while Perry shook hands and talked to the little people.

Politico explains the scene:
The Texas governor let a media throng grow and dissolve before working his way across the room to sit at table after table, shake hand after hand, pose for photographs and listen politely to a windy Abraham Lincoln impersonator, paying respect to a state that expects candidates, no matter their fame, to be accessible.
But Bachmann campaigned like a celebrity. ... She camped out in her bus, parked on the street in front of a nearby Ramada Hotel, until it was time to take the stage. Even after a local official's introduction, Bachmann was nowhere to be found. It was not until a second staffer assured her that the lighting had been changed and a second introduction piped over the loudspeakers that she entered the former dance hall here. By the time she made her big entrance to bright lights and blaring music, the crowd seemed puzzled.
NBC News' Chuck Todd tweets that Bachmann wanted the lights to be switched from unflattering incandescent tungsten lights to HMIs, which are more expensive but offer the more flattering look of natural light. "She can say she's real and part of the people, but that’s not what we do," a female Iowa Republican told Politico. Real women can bear the burden of bad lighting. As ABC News' Michael Falcone notes, other locals saw Sunday's event a lot like Politico did. The Cedar Rapids Gazette's James Q. Lynch opened his story on the twin speeches with the line, "Rick Perry can talk like an Iowan." (About the weather, of course.)
The Washington Post's Dan Balz and Philip Rucker report that Republican strategists still think "Bachmann stands as the favorite to win the Iowa caucuses in the winter. But Perry has said he will compete everywhere, and with Romney well-entrenched in New Hampshire, Iowa offers the Texan an opportunity to score an early victory and enhance his chance of winning the nomination."
But The Wall Street Journal isn't so sure. Granted, "Bachmann is a canny politician," but "winning a straw poll of activists is a long way from persuading voters she has the experience and judgment to sit in the Oval Office." Perry has much more executive experience -- plus the nifty statistic that 37 percent of the jobs created since the recession have been in Texas. Plus, by showing up in Bachmann's birthplace shows he's not afraid of a fight. As Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley told The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny and Michael D. Shear, "From here on, you are shooting with real bullets."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.