As soon as the 2010 campaigns ended, political pundits and members of the media from all around the country expected the 2012 presidential campaign to being immediately. Even though the media was ready for the presidential campaign to begin, the candidates themselves were not.
Instead of a rush of candidates announcing their plans to seek the nation’s highest office, all was quiet in Iowa during the months of November, December, and even most of January. Quiet is a relative term in Iowa. During this period potential presidential candidate like Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, and Rick Santorum all made visits.
While the candidates were not ignoring Iowa, the state was void of the excitement that comes with the start of the presidential contest. For the first time since January of 2008, that caucus excitement was present in Iowa when Michele Bachmann captivated the media and conservative activists as she tested the waters for a potential presidential run last Friday.
Bachmann’s day-long trip to central Iowa felt more like a campaign visit in the closing days of the caucuses than a candidate’s first foray into Iowa caucus politics. A lot of that has to do with the fact that FOX News documented every single step that she took while here.
By my estimation, Representative Bachmann’s Iowa trip has to go down as one of the most successful initial political trips in to Iowa in modern history. Not only was the media coverage fantastic, she also spoke to key constituencies, including fiscal conservatives at an event for Iowans for Tax Relief, and tea party activists at a stop at a Des Moines coffee shop during her time here. On top of that, she had private meetings with the governor and some of the most sought -opinion makers in the state.
The following are some of the significant parts of her day.
The FOX News Factor
Some in the media have called the upcoming Republican presidential campaign the FOX News primary because many of their regular personalities – Palin, Huckabee, Gingrich, and Santorum – are possible candidates. FOX’s coverage of Bachmann’s Iowa trips was to a level that has never been seen here in Iowa. They were not merely covering the comings and goings of a candidate, they were shooting an entire documentary.
Everything from filming Bachmann shaking the hand of Iowa’s new governor, Terry Branstad, to meeting State Senator Kent Sorenson at the front door of the State Senate when he had no real reason to be there since the chamber was not in session, goes to show how carefully choreographed Bachmann’s day was.
One has to wonder if FOX News will dedicate crews to cover every step of another candidate’s day in Iowa. Either Bachmann’s staff was brilliant to either ask or allow FOX to have full access to her as she travels the state, or they made a conscience decision to follow her for one reason or another. It’s hard to believe that FOX would agree to spend so much time following someone that might not even be a presidential candidate. This could indicate that Bachmann is very serious about a presidential run.
A Tea Party Candidate That Appeals to Social Conservatives
Bachmann ran about an hour and a half late to her meeting with a group of Tea Party activists and leaders on Friday. She took a little heat for her tardiness in some national publications, but their focus on the clock made them overlook the significance of the event itself.
About 50 Tea Party leaders and activists showed up to see Bachmann at the Smokey Row coffee house in Des Moines. Not only was the held mid-morning on a weekday, but there was also a pretty good snow storm going on outside. Even though she was running really late, almost all eagerly awaited her arrival. The one person who had to leave was a committed supporter of Ron Paul.
The event, which was closed to the press except for FOX News and TheIowaRepublican.com, showcased Bachmann’s ability to interact with Iowans in small group settings. She excelled in this format and impressed a room full of activists who are sometimes hard to please.
Seeing Bachmann stand and speak in a small coffee shop in front of a huge tin sign with a Hereferd cow on it made for an iconic caucus scene. While the staging was excellent, so too was the fact that she was able to pull off an event like that with little or no notice.
An Iowa activist invited me to the event via text message at 5:54 am that day. Others present probably received a similar last minute invitation. However, Bachmann’s celebrity was enough to motivate those people to turn out on a freezing cold, snowy day. It’s also important not to forget that, to win the caucuses, you need to be able to turn people out in similar weather conditions.
There were also some very strong social conservatives in attendance at the meeting. Bachmann may be a unique candidate in that she will be able to gain the support of both traditional tea party activists and social conservatives. Being a natural home for more than one segment of likely caucus voters makes her very formidable.
The Curse of The House – Not With Bachmann
Throughout our nation’s history, only two members of the House of Representatives have been elected president – James Garfield and Abraham Lincoln. Many members of congress have attempted to run for office, but none will be as well positioned as Bachmann if should she run.
With many states facing serious financial trouble and high unemployment, being a sitting governor running for president might be more difficult than ever considering the electorate doesn’t have must an appetite for deficits. Likewise, the U.S. Senate doesn’t look like its about to produce a strong presidential candidate for Republicans either. That opens the door for someone like Bachmann who might have been overlooked in previous caucus cycles.
Bachmann has the advantage of being from the chamber that can actually accomplish something that Republican voters want, like repealing ObamaCare, which the House passed last week. She is also well positioned to be able to break with Republican leadership from time to time. Bachmann has already let it be known that she will not support raising the debt ceiling, and it’s also probably a good bet that she will not vote for the budget either. That allows her to be able to remain pure, which will be necessary if she is courting the tea party vote.
Her next move will be the one to watch.
Bachmann’s day in Iowa last Friday was impressive. While she finally provided Iowans with some caucus excitement, we will only know how serious she is when she shows up for her next visit to the First-In-The-Nation caucus state. Having agreed to participate in The FAMiLY Leader’s presidential forums, Bachmann is sending a signal that her trip wasn’t a one-time field trip.
She made one thing clear during her speech at the Iowans for Tax Relief PAC fundraiser – she sure knows how to sweet-talk Iowans. As she ended her speech she made the following statements. “I feel like I know you.” “I feel we understand each other.” And, “I trust you.”
Bachmann, who grew up in Cedar Falls, spent an awful lot of time making sure people knew about her Iowa roots. That’s a little odd if she just wants to influence the race, but it makes all the sense in the world if she is indeed running for President.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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