“This is a disaster,” said one prominent Polk County Republican. An elected official called it “an embarrassment”. The embarrassing disaster was the result of Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann’s last minute cancellation of her appearance at the Polk County GOP’s Robb Kelley Dinner. Bachmann’s absence turned what should have been a very successful fundraiser into a black eye for herself, her presidential aspirations and the county party.
Over 300 Republicans paid $75 per ticket to meet and listen to Bachmann. Media from around the country, and even as far away as Norway, descended on Des Moines to cover the event. Extra security was arranged. Speculation rose that she might announce a bid for the presidency at the event. Bachmann squashed that rumor the day before. Then, two hours before the event was scheduled to start, she informed Polk County GOP officials she would not be able to attend.
The scheduling conflict arose because of a House vote on extending the Patriot Act. Backup plans were made for her to use a private jet. In the end, nothing worked and Bachmann was unable to make it. Instead, she appeared on choppy and blurry Skype-style video. Local Republicans were extremely displeased.
“It’s awful,” said activist Becky Irvin. “She just shot herself in the foot. She dissed Iowa. You don’t diss Iowa.” The Patriot Act extensions passed easily, 250-153. Bachmann’s presence was not vital. However, some attendees gave her the benefit of the doubt. “I don’t like it, but I understand,” said John Kline.
Darrell Kearney, senior finance officer for the Polk County GOP, did his best to put a positive spin on Bachmann’s no-show. “It’s always disappointing when you have a speaker who commits but then cancels. It happens every once in awhile. You just make adjustments and do the best you can.” Kearney added that Bachmann has already promised to headline another event in Des Moines that will be free of charge.
Unfortunately, the damage has already been done. Kearney estimates that around 40 people who made reservations no-showed the event. Making matters worse, Bachmann’s political organization reserved three tables for the event, at a cost of $750 per table. However, no one paid for those tickets and at least one of those tables remained completely empty. The Polk County GOP had to pay for several dinners for Bachmann’s people that were never eaten.
The Minnesota congresswoman’s speech-by-video only made matters worse. Bachmann made the mistake of name-dropping Donald Trump during her talk. “Donald Trump was right, we are getting our tail kicked by China,” she said. Last week, Trump cancelled his scheduled appearance at a Republican Party of Iowa fundraiser. Bachmann was clearly ignorant or tone deaf to that controversy.
She apparently was not ignorant of the fact that people were bored by watching her speak on a poor quality video, because Bachmann apologized for being “longwinded”. She then opened it up for questions, but by that point, a significant portion of the crowd had seen enough. Several dozen attendees got up and left. Bachmann then answered two questions, taking several minutes responding to each. “I found myself zoning out and didn’t really follow it,” said one Polk County central committee member and event volunteer.
Earlier in the evening, Bachmann told reporters, via speaker phone, that she will make an announcement regarding her presidential plans sometime next month in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa. On the call, Bachmann gave the impression that she has already decided to run. “We already have hired staff in New Hampshire, in Iowa, in South Carolina,” Bachmann said. “We have folks on the ground working.”
She became very animated when asked if her Iowa roots will work in her favor for the Iowa Caucus. “Being born in Iowa gives me every advantage,” Bachmann said. “Every advantage a girl could hope for.”
However, Bachmann will now be at a disadvantage in Polk County. She did not just skip the county fundraiser. People can forgive that, especially for an important vote. But Bachmann’s political organization stiffed the Polk GOP on $2,250 worth of tickets. She gave a horrendous presentation. She seemed oblivious to Donald Trump reneging on an important Republican fundraiser, while she was doing the same. She even played the victim card at one point, saying she was a target of death threats during her time in the Minnesota senate.
Nothing about Michelle Bachmann seemed presidential Thursday night. Many people thought Newt Gingrich sunk his campaign in the week after his presidential announcement. Bachmann might have dealt a fatal blow to her campaign before she announces.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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