One and a half months after incurring the wrath of local activists by no showing a Polk County GOP fundraiser, Michele Bachmann is winning them over in droves. Over 300 people turned out Saturday for the official opening of Bachmann’s Iowa headquarters in Urbandale. Among them were some of her most vocal critics from the May no-show debacle.
“I just love her,” said Becky Irvin, who is a frequent attendee at local Republican events. Irvin was upset the Minnesota congresswoman had “dissed Iowa” when she skipped the Polk GOP fundraiser due to a vote on the Patriot Act. Now, Irvin has decided she will vote for either Bachmann or Tim Pawlenty. “Once I realized why she missed the thing, I understood. She was doing her job.”
Bachmann’s Saturday event was professionally done in every way. As people waited in line to enjoy free grilled hot dogs, volunteers used iPads to sign people up for free tickets to the upcoming Ames Straw Poll. They also asked if people needed transportation. Using an instantaneous, computerized database for the Straw Poll is a brilliant strategy. That important test is won through organization, which the Bachmann campaign is clearly employing.
Other volunteers walked around with sign-up sheets. Placards, bumper stickers and pins were widely distributed. Everyone was asked if they wanted a lapel sticker. Although the event was outside, there was plenty of available shade, including under two Bachmann campaign pop-up tents.
“We put this together in just a couple of days,” said Bachmann’s Iowa co-chair Brad Zaun. “We didn’t even make that many calls to turn out people.” But the word easily got out. Cars packed the Urbandale strip mall parking lot and the crowd swelled past the 300 mark.
Zaun and fellow state senator Kent Sorenson warmed up the crowd for Bachmann, who was met with raucous cheers after disembarking from her tour bus. Her 22 minute speech included the usual red meat conservatives long for, as well as numerous reminders of her Iowa roots. Bachmann also made a point of asking people to support her at the Ames Straw Poll. That is a strategy all candidates should use at this point.
“I need all of you, for your help to come out and help me in the Straw Poll,” Bachmann told the crowd. “How many of you can fill up a car, a bus, a wagon, a train, a sleigh. Get your skis on. Get your roller skates on. Get your ice skates on, but get to the Straw Poll in Ames, Iowa.”
Her speech was very well received by the crowd. Bachmann’s appeal is reaching beyond the Tea Party. She painted herself as a full service conservative, with a strong record on national security, social issues, and fiscal issues. “If we stick together, we’re going to make a team that can’t be beat in 2012,” Bachmann said.
“I like what I see and hear,” said Adam Kaduce, a young and well-known conservative activist. “She’s got great chances here in Iowa. I think she’s going to win the Caucus.” Kaduce added that he has not decided who he will support, but Bachmann is definitely receiving strong consideration.
The Minnesota congresswoman concluded her speech by encouraging the crowd to go inside and make phone calls on her behalf. Bachmann then spent at least half an hour shaking hands, signing autographs and speaking to voters. She is clearly putting in the type of retail politics necessary to win the Iowa Caucus.
Bachmann’s campaign headquarters, which served as the Victory office for John McCain in 2008, has all the look and feel of a professional operation. There are at least 10 VoIP phones, which allow callers to instantly identify supporters, sign them up for Straw Poll tickets, and store them in an accessible database. Bachmann joined the phone bankers for a couple of calls.
It is obvious that all the momentum in the GOP presidential race resides in Michele Bachmann’s campaign. Her Iowa HQ opening was a huge success. She has the money, the tools, the staff, and most importantly, the grassroots appeal to win Iowa. Her Polk County GOP no-show from a month and a half ago is now a distant memory that did not adversely affect her chances.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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