Did Bachmann peak in Iowa? Candidate’s campaign may be fading, polls show

WASHINGTON — Recent polls underscore how quickly the tide can change in a presidential campaign, particularly early in the race.

The word “surge” was often attached to U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination after the Minnesotan officially declared her candidacy June 27. But since her victory in the Aug. 13 Ames Straw Poll in Iowa, a more appropriate adjective might be “stalled.”

Not only has Bachmann failed to gain traction from the straw poll win that in effect shoved former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to the sidelines, she has lost a good portion of the footing she had.

“No one is sinking faster than Bachmann,” Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen said in an Aug. 23 blogpost summarizing the firm’s latest Iowa poll.

michele-bachmannIn that poll, Bachmann had slipped to third behind Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, with Rep. Ron Paul of Texas on her heels. A month earlier, before Perry entered the race, Bachmann was the front-runner in Iowa, albeit by a slim margin.

Bachmann also had nudged ahead of Romney in national polling in early August. But a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday shows the Stillwater Republican fourth in the minds of GOP voters, behind Perry, Romney and former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

In part, Bachmann’s downward slide can be explained in two words: Rick Perry.

“It’s the new kid on the block syndrome,” said David Schultz, a political expert at Hamline University. “She no longer is the new kid on the block; Perry is.”

But a deeper analysis suggests other factors are at play, not the least of which is electability.

“I’m finding some Republicans starting to say they’re not sure she’s electable,” Schultz said. “I get the sense that she peaked at the Iowa poll.”

Bachmann’s camp dismissed the recent poll results, saying the true test of the third-term congresswoman’s strength will come when voters begin to caucus or vote in primaries.

“We will execute our game plan and worry about the ultimate polls, winning the caucuses and primaries,” Bachmann campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart said. “The first measure that mattered was winning the Iowa straw poll. The next one will be the Iowa caucus.”

In the meantime, a potentially vexing problem for the Bachmann campaign is her decline in favorability ratings. The Public Policy Polling survey in Iowa found 47 percent of voters viewed Bachmann favorably, down from 53 percent in June, while 35 percent had an unfavorable view, up from 16 percent in the previous poll.

Tuesday’s Quinnipiac poll had Bachmann’s favorable/unfavorable standing at 36-26 percent among all voters and 50-14 percent among Republicans. The poll, which had a margin of error of 1.9 percentage points among all voters and 2.9 percentage points among Republicans, showed President Barack Obama beating Bachmann 48-39 percent.

Bachmann has been a darling of the tea party movement and is the founder of the Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives. But recent polls show Perry has emerged as the candidate of choice among tea party people. Perry got 37 percent support from tea party enthusiasts in a CNN poll released Monday, compared with 14 percent for Bachmann.

Iowa State University political expert Dianne Bystrom, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, said historical stereotypes also are at work.

“Research has shown while things are getting much more equitable for women running for Senate or women running for governor, we’ve still not seen more equity in women running for president,” Bystrom said.

Bystrom also said not enough attention has been given to the impact Ron Paul’s candidacy is having on the GOP field. She said while Paul appeals to a different Republican audience, he is siphoning off support from Perry and Bachmann among Republicans.

With the Iowa caucus that typically kicks off the presidential nominating contests tentatively scheduled for Feb. 6, the political tide could shift again in Bachmann’s favor.

University of Minnesota political expert Larry Jacobs said it’s far too early to count Bachmann out.

“It’s true she’s no longer at the very top, but she’s still in the mix,” Jacobs said. “She’s within striking distance. There are cycles in campaigns. She hit her wave. It dissipated, and the question now is whether she will hit another wave.”

Larry Bivins


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  1. ljcb

    How can Tea Party people be leaning toward Perry? The talk has to be backed up by a solid record. Ron Paul is the only one with that record. Don’t be suckered in by “slick Rick”, look at his record in Texas. Look at Bachman’s voting record. She voted for the Patriot act, bailouts etc.

    Ron Paul has been talking the talk for decades, and has been consistent in his voting record, his stance has never changed. He stands for truth, integrity, sound money, sound borders and a non-interventionist foreign policy. Read Liberty Defined to see where he stands on 50 issues. Many library systems carry it.

    1. Ron Paul

      You sir are right on. Ron Paul 2012

  2. tonya byrum

    Rick perry is disgusting! Bachman is a “patriot act”. Sarah is not in and wont win. Romneycare. Cain Fedman! The only one with a solid tea party record who can get votes from all sides is RON PAUL! He is America’s last best hope! RON PAUL 2012

  3. BadBrad

    Rick Perry is the Bilderburg’s Hand Picked Candidate. Bachmann is only a tea party “Darling” because the MSM keeps telling everyone she is. Now the MSM is trying to convince you that Perry, somehow, represents the “tea party” values and is getting their support. Its a thinly veiled effort to convince the public that there really are only two choices (both status quo). the Truth is, A vote for any candidate, other than Ron Paul, is a vote for MORE OF THE SAME.

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