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Peaked? Polling Shows Bachmann Support Withering After Perry’s Debut

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)

By Evan McMorris-Santoro and Kyle Leighton
Talking Points Memo
August 23, 2011


There have been several chapters in the still-extremely-early 2012 presidential race. …

Now, it appears, Michele Bachmann’s moment has come and gone.

When Bachmann jumped in the presidential fight, more than a few pundits predicted she had a real shot at the nomination thanks to their view of a Republican Party more likely to pull another Christine O’Donnell next year than pick a real threat to President Obama.

Those pundits may still prove prescient, but the numbers show it’s becoming less and less likely. The reason? Texas Gov. Rick Perry. His entrance into the race — and his brand of tea party friendly politics and executive experience — seems to be Bachmann’s problem.

Polls have shown a sharp decline for Bachmann, despite being the frontrunner in the Ames Straw Poll and eventually winning it. And the one major reason is the entrance of Perry.

Nationally, Bachmann’s presence is being displaced by Perry, who jumped ahead of the field in the latest Rasmussen survey, the first choice of nearly a third of respondents, with Bachmann only registering 13 percent.

Even Iowa, absolutely essential to her campaign, is turning sour. In a We Ask America poll conducted on August 16, Perry registered 29 percent, with Bachmann in second with 17 percent. In a PPP poll that will be released later today, Bachmann comes in third in a GOP Primary trial heat, her unfavorability numbers having jumped nearly twenty points from a previous PPP survey in June.

There may be more to it than polling. On the ground in South Carolina last week, more than one unaffiliated professional Republican said that Bachmann’s crowds were still of the more extreme activist variety, leaving her with a narrow slice of the primary electorate.

Bachmann’s pitching a relatively extreme message on the trail as well, despite the Ames win that raised her profile beyond the tea party where her popularity is never in doubt.

Perry, on the other hand, is actively rounding over his sharper policy edges, allowing him to still exist in the tea party sphere while leveraging his office for maximum electability.

Bachmann, on the other hand, is still talking about shutting down the Department of Education and standing by her refusal to vote for an increase in the debt ceiling under any circumstances (not to mention her social views, which she mentions often). That definitely makes some in the GOP very happy, but it also makes her a tougher sell to Republicans hoping for a candidate with a reasonable shot at the White House in 2012.

Try as she might — and impressive as her campaign has been so far — Bachmann has not been able to shake off her reputation as an extremist who says silly things.

When she was the fresh and new alternative to Mitt Romney, those problems seemed to be less important. But now that she’s running alongside two former governors with big national bases, the issues she came into the campaign with seem to be pushing her back onto the sidelines.

Read the full story Talking Points Memo


Related reports on this site

blog post photo
Rep. Michele Bachmann speaks at a Tea Party rally at Lake George, St. Cloud, Minn., Friday, June 4, 2010. (Photo: Aubrey Immelman)

Bachmann, Pawlenty ‘Slugfest’ At Iowa GOP Debate (Aug. 11, 2011)

Michele Bachmann Surges in Presidential Polling (July 21, 2011)

More Support for Tea Party Candidates Than for Mitt Romney (July 14, 2011)


8/25/11 Update

Bad News for Bachmann in New National Polls

By Jeremy Herb
Star Tribune
August 24, 2011

Two national Republican presidential polls released Wednesday show that Rep. Michele Bachmann has failed to generate momentum following her Ames Straw Poll victory as Texas Gov. Rick Perry surges into the lead.

Polls from both Gallup and Public Policy Polling have Perry in the top spot over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, with Perry leading 29 to 17 percent in the Gallup poll and 33 to 20 percent in the Public Policy Polling survey.

Bachmann finishes third in the PPP poll at 16 percent, and she dropped to fourth at 10 percent in the Gallup poll behind Rep. Ron Paul, who was a close second in the Iowa straw poll.

Bachmann’s support dropped in both polls since Perry entered the 2012 race earlier this month. His surge has harmed Bachmann in large part because Perry is swooping up the conservative vote. He leads Bachmann in a two-way race 56 to 26, according to the PPP poll. …

Read the full report at Star Tribune Hot Dish Politics blog


8/26/11 Update

GOP primary election 2012: Poll shows Republicans growing more satisfied with presidential field (AP / The Huffington Post, Aug. 26, 2011)

Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry (AP / Huffington Post)


1/21/12 Update

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., hugs her mother, Jean LaFave, after announcing Jan. 4, 2012 in West Des Moines, Iowa, she was ending her campaign for Republican presidential candidate.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., hugs her mother, Jean LaFave, after announcing Jan. 4, 2012 in West Des Moines, Iowa, that she was ending her campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. (Photo credit:  Getty Images via St. Cloud Times)

A new glimpse at Bachmann’s Iowa demise

Posted 1/13/2012 on by Mark Sommerhauser

A new dispatch from the Des Moines Register sheds light on the demise of Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign in Iowa.

In an article titled “Nine reasons Michele Bachmann’s campaign fizzled,” the Register’s chief politics writer, Jennifer Jacobs, gives fresh insight into tactical gaffes by Bachmann’s campaign, and into the much-publicized defection of Bachmann’s Iowa campaign co-chair, state Sen. Kent Sorenson, to Ron Paul’s campaign in the days before the caucuses.

Jacobs attempts to answer the question everyone was asking after Bachmann, R-Stillwater, withdrew from the presidential race earlier this month: How did the winner of last year’s Iowa Straw Poll suffer the steepest fall from grace of any straw poll winner in history, garnering just 5 percent support in the caucuses?

Jacobs writes that Bachmann’s collapse may have been fueled by factionalism within her campaign and strategic oversights. …

Read the full story at the St. Cloud Times


Feature story

Nine Reasons Michele Bachmann’s Campaign Fizzled

Michele Bachmann speaks at the Republican Party of Iowa’s straw poll in Ames, Aug. 13, 2011. Her first-place finish that day was the height of her campaign’s success. It tipped downward after that. (Photo credit: Des Moines Register file)

By Jennifer Jacobs
Chief politics writer
Jennifer Jacobs
Des Moines Register
January 12, 2012


How did Michele Bachmann drain the reservoir of good will she once enjoyed [link added] with Iowa caucusgoers?

The native Iowan bolted out of the starting gate [link added] to 22 percent support in The Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll in June, just one percentage point below poll leader Mitt Romney.

As a social conservative and founder of the congressional Tea Party Caucus [link added], she could lay claim to credibility with swaths of likely Republican caucusgoers [link added].

With Romney sitting on the sidelines for the Iowa straw poll, Bachmann was the fist-pumping conqueror [link added] on Aug. 13.

Yet she earned just 5 percent support in the Iowa caucuses last week.

“The euphoria of winning the straw poll was squandered in so many different ways,” said Bob Heckman, one of Bachmann’s senior advisers and a veteran of seven previous GOP presidential campaigns.

In interviews with the Register, her campaign aides and Iowa supporters have disclosed numerous missteps, some not of her own making, in a campaign that was birthed and died [link added] in Iowa:

1. Supporter cards remain shelved

Bachmann at the Iowa straw poll on Aug. 13, 2011. (Photo credit: Andrea Melendez / The Des Moines Register)

At the straw poll, about 6,000 Iowans filled out Bachmann supporter cards with their contact information, an invaluable resource for galvanizing a base of activist caucusgoers.

But the trail went cold for eight weeks when the supporter cards sat in limbo at the national headquarters, said Kent Sorenson, her Iowa chairman until the last week of the campaign. …

“We lost almost eight weeks of hot contacts,” Sorenson said. “People wanted to help, but this communicated that we were not interested in their help.”

The campaign had by August identified more than 30,000 Iowa supporters, but failed over the course of the summer to remain in contact with them.

2. Staffers fight, part company

Almost from the beginning, a strategy fight broke out inside the national campaign team: Stay focused on Iowa (like her strategists and her pollster wanted), or hit South Carolina and Florida (like the advance team on the bus wanted)?

Bachmann sided with the bus team and headed out of Iowa after the straw poll. The opposing faction — [national campaign manager Ed] Rollins, [national deputy manager David] Polyansky and pollster Ed Goeas, who wanted her priorities to be debates, raising money and Iowa — parted ways with the campaign.

The decision to go national meant she missed the opportunity to do a victory lap here and build momentum while social conservative rival Rick Perry was making the tactical mistake of spending a great deal of time elsewhere, Sorenson said. …

“We seemed to be adrift and never could get the ship back on course,” he said.

Keith Nahigian, who led the advance team, was named campaign manager. Debate coach Brett O’Donnell, who served as John McCain’s debate coach, became Bachmann’s closest adviser and gatekeeper. They sometimes shut out the Iowa team, the Iowans said. …

The campaign staffers even divided over a basic question of campaigning: how Bachmann should position herself. …

Some aides thought she needed to run as a revolutionary, tea party, throw-the-bums-out candidate, but others on the team wanted her to run as a mainstream conservative who appeared presidential.

3. A Waterloo moment in August

Iowa Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, was with Bachmann at Electric Park Ballroom in Waterloo on Aug. 14, 2011. His work on the trail with Bachmann intensified near the end of the campaign. This was a Des Moines event on Dec. 29. (Photo credit: Chris Carlson / AP)

The divided campaign staff was a factor in mishandling Bachmann’s first joint appearance with Perry, on Aug. 14. …

When Perry swaggered into the city of Bachmann’s birth for a Black Hawk County GOP dinner, her national strategists coached her to treat him as the warm-up act, then take the stage and say, “As a native Iowan, I’m really excited you showed up here. You may have heard I won the straw poll.”

But the advance staff persuaded her to dump the lines. The advance staffers, Nahigian and O’Donnell, were the ones who took over the campaign after the seasoned original team departed.

Bachmann got dinged in the press for hiding out on her bus while her name was called twice after Perry’s speech. …

4. No money left for commercials

Winning the straw poll catapulted an infant campaign into competitiveness, which was likely worth it, aides said.

That was likely worth it, but expenses could have been trimmed here and there, between the fuel-sucking motorcoach, the pricey advance operation to set up professional-looking campaign stops, food to feed the crowds on Aug. 13, the air-conditioned straw poll tent and Randy Travis.

One costly side effect to the heavy early spending: Bachmann had no TV and radio advertising through the late summer and fall. …

5. Sexism among some conservatives

Rival presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s Iowa coalitions director, Jamie Johnson, sent out an email saying that children’s lives would be harmed if the nation had a female president. He wrote it in June, but it surfaced on the campaign trail in the fall. …

Did Iowa’s Christian conservatives hamper Bachmann’s campaign? Such accusations are counterbalanced by Iowans’ willingness to give her the straw poll crown, the first woman in history to claim that throne.

But in the final weeks of the campaign, as Bachmann’s poll numbers hovered in single digits, her national aides and evangelical organization team privately complained that sexism coursed through Iowa’s religious conservative community, even as the aides publicly rebuffed questions on the topic.

“We did believe that sexism — I use the stronger word misogyny — was at play,” said Peter Waldron, Bachmann’s faith outreach coordinator. …

6. Others’ errors factor in gaffes

At Snowden House in Waterloo, Bachmann reaches out to shake a hand after making her formal announcement that she was running for president. Campaign aide Keith Nahigian and her husband, Marcus, were at her back. (Photo credit: Justin Hayworth / The Des Moines Register)

Aides were responsible for at least two gaffes that made news in Iowa — but the candidate suffered the red face.

“I want them to know just like John Wayne is from Waterloo, Iowa, that’s the spirit I have, too,” Bachmann told Fox News in Waterloo when she launched her campaign on June 27.

It made Iowans flinch, including Sorenson, whose Senate district 150 miles away includes the movie icon’s birthplace of Winterset.

While discussing where to hold her campaign kickoff in Waterloo, Rollins, then the campaign manager, mentioned that he had wanted Ronald Reagan in 1984 to visit Wayne’s birthplace. “I think it’s near Waterloo,” he said to Bachmann and the other aides in the meeting. Nahigian later learned that it wasn’t, but Bachmann ended up repeating the error.

What magnified the gaffe was that serial killer John Wayne Gacy lived in Waterloo, a coincidence that became part of the storyline.

Nahigian gave her the talking point that she used on Aug. 16 in South Carolina that it was Elvis Presley’s birthday when it was actually the anniversary of his death, aides said.

As Bachmann was tumbling in the polls, it was her second set of campaign managers who set her up for photos in front of meat at a Des Moines warehouse, providing fodder for endless “dead meat” jokes about the campaign. …

Bachmann looks at hanging beef carcasses during a plant tour at Amend Packing Co. in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo credit: Charlie Neibergall / AP file)

7. County leaders, others felt slighted

By the time communications strategist Eric Woolson joined the staff in late October, little mistakes had become lingering complaints, he said.

The advance staff offended officials at a Humboldt County GOP fundraiser on Aug. 9 by asking the crowd to leave their suppers and gather around her bus. They wanted Bachmann’s theatricals to appear polished compared to those of Tim Pawlenty [link added], a fellow Minnesotan, who was speaking on a bare stage inside. …

As time passed, some aides felt shoved aside. At the debate in Sioux City, the campaign managers declined to give Sorenson, Heckman and another senior adviser, Guy Short, all-access passes to the spin room or candidate’s stateroom.

Sorenson and Short both walked out in frustration and holed up at state Sen. Rick Bertrand’s pub. Bachmann’s husband, Marcus, and O’Donnell showed up later to talk them into staying with the campaign, and heated words were exchanged.

The week before the caucuses, Sorenson created a national political mini-scandal by defecting to Ron Paul’s campaign. …

8. Image-conscious staff’s roles mixed

Rick Santorum, left, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich before the start of the debate in Ames, Aug. 11, 2011. (Photo credit: Justin Hayworth / The Des Moines Register)

Staffers determined to protect Bachmann’s image at times succeeded in keeping quiet what they feared would be damaging news, and at other times created their own damage.

The revelation in July that Bachmann suffered from migraine headaches [link added] risked raising doubts in voters’ minds about her physical fitness to become commander in chief. …

Bachmann had a migraine on Aug. 11 and had to cancel an 11:30 a.m. appearance at state Sen. Jack Whitver’s house in Ankeny, Sorenson said. The campaign took pains to keep the reason a secret. That night, she did very well in the debate in Ames, Sorenson said. …

But late in the caucus process, when campaign aides passed her notes during radio interviews telling her what to say, it hurt her credibility, backers said.

Asked if that happened on his radio show, conservative host Steve Deace said: “Let me just say I saw things done by her staff that wouldn’t typically be done by the staff of someone running for an office of such stature, and leave it at that. … No need kicking a sister when she’s down.”

9. Timing issues until the end

The perception grew that Bachmann was a diva [link added], even though that was probably unfair, aides said.

She earned a reputation for leaving events too early, [Bachmann’s Iowa political director, Wes] Enos said. Two examples: She never stepped foot in the hospitality room Iowa aides set up for her at the state party’s Reagan dinner on Nov. 4, and she also seemed to flee the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition event Oct. 22.

Zaun said both were his calls. “My fault,” he said.

She was late to event after event — even the one in the town of Early — partly because she liked to stay until she’d answered the last question, and partly because Nahigian asked the bus to pull over to wait for crowds to build, aides said. …

Logistical snafus and outright bad luck trailed her to the campaign’s final day. Bachmann was 25 minutes late to her speech Jan. 4 when she called it quits.

And Perry managed to step on her moment again. On caucus night, he said he was headed back to Texas, to reassess his campaign. But just as Bachmann was about to take the microphone, Perry jubilantly tweeted, “Here we come South Carolina!!!”

Read the full story at the Des Moines Register



One Year Ago — August 24, 2010

Iraq-Afghanistan Casualties

One year ago today, I provided my weekly report of U.S. military deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.


Two Years Ago — August 24, 2009

Postpone Health Care Reform

Two years ago today, on August 24, 2009, I reported that Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman urged President Barack Obama to postpone many of his health care reform initiatives because of the economic downturn.


Three Years Ago — August 24, 2008

Campaign Against Michele Bachmann: Day 41

Three years ago today, on Sunday, August 24, 2008 — the 41st day of my 2008 campaign against incumbent U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann for the Republican nomination in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District — I posted a public service announcement to publicize the St. Stephen Catholic Church Festival.

2 Responses to “Rick Perry Hurts Michele Bachmann in GOP Primary”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Rep. Michele Bachmann’s Campaign for President Says:

    […] Rick Perry Hurts Michele Bachmann in GOP Primary (Aug. 24, 2011) […]

  2. The Immelman Turn » Blog Archive » Reawakening: Michele Bachmann Rears Her Head, Again Says:

    […] Michele Bachmann was on the presidential campaign trail and for a moment enjoyed frontrunner status, winning the Iowa straw poll in August before dropping out five months later after a disappointing sixth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. […]

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