Michele Bachmann’s Iowa campaign tried to flex its organizational muscle Friday by releasing a list of “Northwest Iowa Leaders” for her campaign. The announcement had the opposite effect. The list shows 39 names of “key northwest Iowa party activists” the Bachmann campaign claims is part of a “growing statewide organization”. Immediately upon viewing the list, I knew there were problems.
There are three general rules when publicly releasing a list of supporters. First, make sure the press release shows a strong organizational structure. Secondly, make sure everyone on the list supports you. Third, make sure everyone on the list approves the usage of their name. The Bachmann campaign broke all three rules.
The most glaring issue is the inclusion of David and Becky Kepler of Webster City. The Keplers certainly fit the bill of party activists and could benefit any campaign. The problem is, they are not supporting Michele Bachmann. They are remaining neutral through the Iowa Caucus.
The Keplers are active in the Hamilton County GOP central committee. Someone in the Bachmann campaign mistook their efforts in helping to organize a Bachmann appearance in Webster City for actual support. “We want to get as many different candidates to Hamilton County as possible,” Becky Kepler told TheIowaRepublican.com. “I think this is a miscommunication, not some sinister plot to just name chairs.”
This is not the first time this cycle Bachmann has claimed support from someone who has not offered it. Reverend Brian Nolder from Pella was included in a list released in August of pastors and faith leaders who support Bachmann. Nolder wrote on Facebook on Friday that he had not endorsed her, but merely attended an event where Bachmann appeared.
The list also fails to show a strong campaign structure in northwest Iowa. There is no one on the list from Sioux County, the most conservative county in the state and one that should be well-suited for Bachmann to pick up significant support. Ditto for Lyon County. Dickinson and Palo Alto counties are also absent any names.
Releasing a list of northwest Iowa leaders without having at least one person in all the counties, especially Sioux and Lyon, seems ill-advised and certainly premature. Bachmann’s Iowa campaign manager Eric Woolson told Fox News earlier this week that they will soon name chairs in all 99 counties. “We’re getting close to that goal,” Woolson said. “We’re well, well, well on our way to that. We’ve got a solid majority.”
Then Woolson should have advised the campaign not to release it until all 99 counties were filled. Or at least, if you’re just going to release a northwest Iowa list, make sure you have those counties filled. And make sure the list is accurate.
I was curious if there were other names on the list who were mistakenly placed there, so I called a few. Tony Vondrak from Sioux City confirmed he is backing Bachmann. “Its all about her integrity,” Vondrak said. “She speaks honestly. I think she’s very knowledgeable and I think her take on politics is very fresh. Her energy is something that’s needed and she brings something new to the race.”
Vondrak was a precinct captain for Fred Thompson’s Iowa campaign in 2008. As the northwest Iowa director for Thompson, I recruited Vondrak. He is one of only a handful of names on the list that I recognize. Therein lies another problem. I have worked extensively in northwest Iowa for two statewide campaigns and many of these names are foreign to me. That does not mean they are not good grassroots activists, but I would expect more prominent names from a list of northwest Iowa “leaders”.
“These supporters represent a spectrum of campaign experience with some having been politically active for many years and others being new to the process,” said Bachmann’s state chairman Kent Sorenson. “Great things always happen to campaigns that generate that balance of experience and enthusiasm.”
Compiling leaders in all 99 counties is a grueling job. However, judging from their remarkable success at the Ames Straw Poll, I would have guessed the Bachmann campaign would be up to the task. They were exceptionally well-organized for that event, paying attention to the minor details necessary to pull out the victory.
Frankly, with only 38 days until the Iowa Caucus, all the presidential campaigns should have secured a chair in each county by now. Part of Bachmann’s problem is she waited until October to begin campaigning in northwest Iowa. The campaign focused on central Iowa in order to win the Straw Poll. That paid off in the short term, but might prove costly on January 3.
Iowa is a must-win state for Michele Bachmann. Northwest Iowa is rich with conservative activists. If her campaign can only identify 39 37 leaders in that area with just a month left in the race, Bachmann has some major problems. Luckily for her, a large number of Iowans remain undecided or not fully committed. She needs to do something fast to win them over. Her strong performance in Tuesday’s debate was definitely a step in the right direction.
Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com
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