Bachmann Needs Iowa (If She Can Even Get There)

The Congresswoman is tacking right, trying to shore up a flagging campaign

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Rep. Michele Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll on Aug. 13. Her campaign needs a win in the Iowa caucuses in January to give her any hope of taking the Republican nomination for president. But it's unclear if she'll even make it that far.

The Atlantic's Molly Ball documented Bachmann's hard tack to the right this week. The congresswoman has made blunt appeals to Christian conservatives in the past several weeks, pushing legislation on abortion and against the right of same-sex couples to marry. She has said she'd reinstate the Don't Ask Don't Tell rule for gay members of the military. She kinda/sorta agreed with a voter in (where else?) Iowa who said President Barack Obama should be impeached.

But it doesn't seem to be working. Bachmann spoke at the Values Voters Summit in Washington on Friday, a gathering that should have been the nearest approximation imaginable to her base. At Slate, Dave Weigel reports that it didn't go so well:

I spoke a bit too soon. Bachmann's speech never caught fire and turned into a looping mess. Budgeted for 25 minutes (I noticed a countdown clock near the stage), it dragged on for 45, as Bachmann repeated her themes on the same subjects -- "Obamacare" repeal, the wisdom of John Adams -- twice. Afterwards, a small number of Bachmann fans were encouraged to wait to the side of the stage to meet the candidate, and in that line I found some enthusiams. "She touched on all the subjects she talks about," said supporter Mark Moore.

But the meet-and-greet was just as odd. Bachmann ran out quickly, shaking hands, then ran back to the loping backstage area where, the theory went, she would regroup for another meeting. Some Bachmann fans started sprinting to the VIP parking lot where they were thinking they'd see here, while some -- including William Temple, the omnipresent Tea Party Patriot -- shrugged and went back to their seats. The diehards never got to see Bachmann, being told by a staffer that they'd arrived right after she left.

So will she even make it to the all-important Iowa caucus — especially as Texas Gov. Rick Perry bigfoots his way around conservative fundraising circles, raising millions? Lois Romano at The Daily Beast says there are real doubts:

Bachmann’s entire strategy has focused on a single play: Win the Iowa caucuses—and then hope the momentum will carry her further. But the entry of another Tea Party darling, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, has exposed the chinks in Bachmann’s armor, especially in the fund-raising department where past and current aides tell The Daily Beast she lacked the will to dial for dollars.

One person directly familiar with the campaign, who would discuss internal campaign deliberations only on condition of anonymity, said it “came as a shock” to former campaign manager Ed Rollins and his deputy, David Polyansky, that Bachmann didn’t see it as her responsibility to personally pick up the phone and solicit contributions from big donors.  Rollins said recently that Bachmann lacks the “resources to go beyond … Iowa at this point in time.”

Her message to voters is insistent: Don't settle. It's starting to look like the conservative voters won't settle — for Bachmann.

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