Bachmann Looking Up At Where She Once Stood
Could a Haley endorsement turn her campaign around?
Though it is barely three months old, the presidential campaign of Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachman has already been something of a roller-coaster ride -- filled with ups and downs, most of which were her own doing.
And this week's Huffington Post/ Patch poll suggests that conservative influentials in South Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa don't even believe she is capable of beating President Obama next November.
When she declared her candidacy at mid-debate in June's New Hampshire Republican debate, expectations were low. But when she performed well at that same debate, she rocketed up the polls and drew large crowds in South Carolina and has done so consistently in return visits to the Palmetto State.
But with the strong showing in the polls came renewed scrutiny. Bachmann faced questions about migraine headaches, the therapeutic techniques of a mental clinic owned by her and her husband, and criticism from former campaign staffers.
They, along with her propensity for committing gaffes, all served to derail the momentum she had built up in the early weeks of the campaign. However, they were not enough to prevent her from winning the important Ames, Iowa straw poll in August, a poll that effectively knocked former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty from the race.
The weekend of the straw poll may prove to be the turning point for Bachmann, but not in the way she had thought.
With the exit of one challenger in Pawlenty came the arrival of another, more potent rival in Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Perry almost immediately began taking support from Bachmann and by the end of August was the confirmed frontrunner among GOP voters.
Now, Bachmann finds herself back in the pack again. Where a month ago she was among the top-tier candidates, a recent poll shows her trailing long shots Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich.
While it may be easy to point to some of Bachmann’s controversial statements as the cause of her slide, Furman University political science chair Danielle Vinson thinks it is more than that.
“Her being in the House has hurt her,” Vinson said. “Especially when compared to candidates like Perry and Romney, who have executive experience.”
With her tumble in the polls there was some speculation that Bachmann might abandon campaigning other early primary states and focus on Iowa.
But the head of the Spartanburg GOP, LaDonna Ryggs, said that hasn’t happened.
“She is planning on returning to South Carolina,” Ryggs said. “She’s done well and raised a lot of money here.”
While some think Bachmann’s campaign may have peaked, Ryggs is not among those.
“I think she still has some upside, but the crowds will tell how she’s doing," Ryggs said. “They are a good indicator for her.”
A regular in those crowds has been Dean Allen, a supporter of Bachmann’s almost from the time she declared her candidacy.
He thinks it would be a mistake to write off South Carolina.
“If you’re a conservative and you’re running for president, you have to do well here," Allen said, citing the state’s record of correctly picking the nominee since 1980. “She has to finish first or second here to have a chance to win.”
Allen was not persuaded by the thought that being in the House has hurt Bachmann.
“We’ve elected generals, senators, governors, all kinds of different people,” Allen said. “She has plenty of experience and education, certainly more than the current president.”
Neither Vinson nor Ryggs felt Bachmann’s gender has been an issue, as it had been for previous national candidates such as Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton.
In fact, there is a belief in some quarters that if Bachmann can stay in the race long enough, the endorsement of another female office holder may help her rise again in the polls.
That endorsement would be from Gov. Nikki Haley, who has hosted Bachmann at least twice at the governor’s mansion in Columbia and appeared at one of her campaign events.
That endorsement, if it comes it all, does not appear to be coming anytime soon. Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey gave Patch the following statement regarding the governor’s endorsement intentions:
“Governor Haley welcomes each Republican candidate for president to our state. She has visited with many of them and urged them to campaign here hard and often.”
For now, it appears that if Bachmann wants to get back to the top of the polls, she’ll have to do it on her own.