Posted at 6:30 AM on January 3, 2012
by Michael Olson
Filed under: Iowa
MPR News reporter Mark Zdechlik in Waterloo, Iowa
Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann heads home to her birthplace near Waterloo, Iowa, today, to address thousands of Republicans who will be caucusing at a large arena there.
Bachmann hopes to convince many of the undecided caucus-goers to support her in tonight's balloting, and give her campaign the boost it needs to regain momentum heading into New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Listening to Bachmann on the campaign trail, you'd be hard-pressed to know she's dead last in the polls, that key staffers have abandoned her campaign and that virtually every political insider has written off her prospects to win the GOP presidential nomination.
The polls that Bachmann once celebrated she now dismisses, and she's become increasingly frustrated with reporters' questions about her campaign's viability should she fail to post a strong finish in Tuesday's Iowa caucuses.
Bachmann is making the trip to the Waterloo area not only because she can talk to thousands of caucus-goers at once, but also to try to leverage her Iowa roots -- as she has since she began her campaign for president.
"I was born into a middle-class family here in Iowa," Bachmann reminded reporters Monday afternoon during a campaign stop in Des Moines. "I grew up in Iowa, and my experiences here also led me to understand how independent thinking Iowans are."
A couple hours to the northeast in Waterloo, there's a lot of activity in the cramped offices of the Black Hawk County Republican Party. They're getting ready for what could be a caucus turnout that's twice as large as it was four years ago.
"We helped project [Bachmann] into the forefront when she entered the race, because she is a Waterloo native and a Black Hawk County native," said Black Hawk County GOP Chairman "Mac" McDonald.
McDonald said he thinks Bachmann got bad campaign advice, and that the image she tried to portray as a fighter fell short.
"She spearheaded the fight against Obamacare; well, she got defeated," McDonald said. "She spearheaded the fight against TARP; well, she got defeated. She didn't really come out with a plan, she came out with what's wrong, but not with a plan to set us straight."
McDonald thinks that if Bachmann ends up finishing at or near the bottom in Iowa, she will have a hard time garnering support in other states.
Scott Huffmon, a political scientist in South Carolina, agrees. Huffmon, of Winthrop University in Rock Creek, S.C., calls Iowa "stunningly important" for Bachmann's South Carolina prospects.
"South Carolinans would look at her and say if she wasn't viable in her own backyard, in a place where she has spent a ton of time laying a lot of groundwork, then maybe we'll look to another candidate," said Huffmon.
Cathy Wurzer talked with Des Moines Register's Jason Noble on Twitter yesterday about what he's seen from Bachmann in Iowa.
More Iowa coverage from MPR News.