Iowa supporters want Bachmann to get her shoes dirtyby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, MN — Pastor Terry Chapman says it's time for Rep. Michele Bachmann to get her shoes dirty if she wants to hold on to some of the Iowa Republicans who helped her to victory in the Ames Straw Poll a few weeks ago - Republicans who now seem to be shifting their loyalties to Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
And Chapman, one of an early group of key religious leaders helping to propel the congresswoman's presidential bid before the straw poll, says he thinks Bachmann should follow the lead of another tea party favorite for some guidance.
"Sarah Palin, you know, she was on a fishing boat. She had on rubber boots. It endeared her to people because they said, 'She's normal,'" Chapman said, adding that connecting to voters that way will be key to winning the Iowa Caucuses next year.
"Walk out in that pasture full of manure," Chapman said. "It's one person out there, but you touch that one person and he drinks coffee the next day and he says, 'That woman's real.' You just scored points. It's the hard way to do it. It's the long way to do it. But in Iowa, it's kind of important."
It's also a world away from the carefully choreographed campaign that the Minnesota congresswoman favors.
Bachmann often arrives at appearances in a huge campaign bus festooned with political insignias that prevent anyone from seeing inside. As rock and country music blares from loudspeakers, she steps out surrounded by a scrum of aides and security staff including a bodyguard, and gets whisked to a stage or microphone. After she speaks, the process is reversed, and she's gone.
That kind of political theater, coupled with behind-the-scenes organizing, helped propel Bachmann to victory in Ames. But on the very same day she celebrated victory, Perry threw his hat into the race for the GOP nomination, and Bachmann began to fade in national and Iowa opinion polls.
If she doesn't want to follow in Mitt Romney's footsteps - he won the Ames poll in the 2008 election cycle, but lost the caucuses to Mike Huckabee - politicos in Iowa say that she needs to campaign full time in the state, not just pop in for appearances.
Craig Robinson was the political director for the Republican Party of Iowa at caucus time four years ago when Huckabee won, and now publishes "theiowarepublican.com." He says Huckabee literally met almost everyone who caucused for him face to face, and he thinks Bachmann could learn from Huckabee's approach.
"There are still a lot of people who really love Mike Huckabee. And that's because they have a personal bond with him. So that's the kind of access that you need to have if you want to really win these caucuses," Robinson said. "Bachmann really needs to show that she's willing to do that level of politicking in the state. You know, you really need to open yourself up and build relationships with your supporters."
The Bachmann campaign needs to realize the media buzz that propelled her to the top is gone, and any chance of regaining it rests with the amount of time and energy Bachmann will commit to visiting with regular Iowa Republicans, Robinson said.
Pastor Jim McGaffey, of Fairfield, Iowa, agrees with that analysis.
"I think if she were to get out and go through the farm yards and meet people one-on-one or in groups where she can actually articulate in a very direct manner, and be able to answer questions, that that would help considerably in her campaign," he said. And despite Bachmann's plunge in national polls, there's time to recover.
"I think if she does regroup and gains that traction, I think she really has an excellent opportunity to win," he said. "It's way too early to write anybody off."
Pastor Chapman agrees, and says Bachmann can counter what he's convinced is the media's desire for a two-man contest between Perry and Romney by meeting Iowa voters one by one, like she was doing a few weekends ago at the Iowa-Iowa State football game.
"Lots of pressing the flesh," he said. "She needs to do that."
- Morning Edition, 09/19/2011, 6:55 a.m.