Following her boffo performance at the 2012 GOP Presidential Debate in New Hampshire two weeks ago, Rep. Michele Bachmann has surged into a tie for the lead in Iowa, according to a new poll posted this evening by The Des Moines Register. Iowa holds the first-in-the-nation presidential precinct caucuses early next year.
The Iowa GOP caucuses are especially important this year because no champion of the socially conservative/evangelical base of the Republican Party has yet emerged.
Traditional Republicans have their candidate in Mitt Romney. Maverick Republicans are taking a shine to Jon Huntsman. Libertarian Republicans have their man in Rep. Ron Paul. But the socially conservative base of the party still lacks its standard-bearer.
The significance of the Iowa Poll is that Rep. Bachmann may be beginning to fill that vacuum.
Two things are propelling her forward: (1) her aforementioned performance at the CNN GOP Presidential candidates debate in New Hampshire, and (2) conservative disdain for liberal press coverage of Rep. Bachmann, most notably a hatchet job published by Rolling Stone magazine.
“I stand for life,” Ms. Bachmann said, twice, at the New Hampshire debate. You could almost feel the Iowa RIght To Life movement snap to attention. When Rolling Stone followed on with its piece that basically characterised Ms. Bachmann as a lunatic, her credibility across conservative chat rooms and message boards soared. If the media hate her, conservatives reasoned, she must be doing God’s work here on earth.
She is now tied for the lead in Iowa. 20-two per cent of the poll respondents say they will support her in the straw poll that proceeds the presidential caucuses. The results of that straw poll are what get reported on caucus night next winter. Mitt Romney garnered the support of 23 per cent of the poll’s respondents. Herman Cain captured the support of 10 per cent of the respondents. No one else was even close.
The Iowa Poll has long been one of the nation’s most reliable public opinon polls. It has accurately captured the ebbs and flows of virtually every statewide campaign in the state for decades. Political professionals take its findings very seriously.
What it’s telling us now is that Bachmann has emerged as a serious candidate to be the champion of the social conservative/evangelical base of the party. And it tells us that Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s campaign is in free fall.
It’s also telling us that Romney’s supposed “electability” has now become a “voting issue.” People are for him because they think he has the best chance of defeating President Obama in November. That was not true a year ago. It is true today.
But the over-arching story of the poll is the rise of Ms. Bachmann. She announces her candidacy (officially) in Waterloo, Iowa (where she was born) on Monday. It is the beginning of her second act on the national political stage. She ended the first act on a very high note. The question now is whether she can continue to raise her game.
If she can, watch out. Anyone who can get the socially conservative/evangelical base to coalesce around his or her candidacy has a 50-50 shot of being the 2012 GOP presidential nominee.
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