Why Michele Bachmann is the Iowa frontrunner

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann will formally announce her presidential campaign on Monday in Waterloo, Iowa — and will immediately become the early favorite to win the state’s February 2012 caucuses.

The new Des Moines Register poll, which was released late Saturday night, tells the story.

Bachmann is in a statistical dead heat with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney — she takes 22 percent to his 23 percent. Businessman Herman Cain is the only other candidate to receive double-digit support (10 percent.)

While the topline numbers are impressive for Bachmann, they reveal only some of her Iowa strength.

The other piece of it comes from the passion that the Minnesota Republican engenders in her supporters. In the Register poll, 65 percent said they had a favorable impression of Bachmann, with 31 percent saying they felt very favorably toward her. (Just 12 percent felt unfavorably about Bachmann.)

Excitement and passion are organic and can’t be created no matter how strong a political organization a candidate puts together. One need only look back to the 2008 Iowa caucus results for evidence of that phenomenon.

Romney was, without question, the best financed and organized candidate. But former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee was the candidate who inspired true passion among his supporters — and, not surprisingly, the candidate who won Iowa.

Bachmann, a charismatic social conservative, is occupying the space left in the Hawkeye State when Huckabee announced last month that he wouldn’t run for the presidency a second time in 2012.

But, Bachmann’s political position in Iowa is, for at least four reasons, stronger than Huckabee’s at this time in the 2008 race.

First, she is a native Iowan. In a state where politicians are constantly claiming to be the one who truly understands the residents’ lives, Bachmann can make a legitimate claim that she gets it, because she is one of them. Bachmann is the only candidate in the field who can start a speech with the phrase, “I was born right here in Iowa.”

Second, she starts at the top rather than the bottom in Iowa. In the first Register poll in the 2008 race — conducted in May 2007 — Huckabee received just four percent. Through sheer force of personality and his connections in the evangelical community, Huckabee managed to charge into contention and peak at exactly the right time to win. Bachmann won’t need a meteoric rise like that.

Third, Bachmann won’t have to contend with an active and free-spending Romney. Romney’s decision to skip the Ames Straw Poll in August is a clear sign that, while he will campaign in the state, he won’t put it at the center of his campaign as he did four years ago. With roughly one in five (18 percent) of respondents in the Register poll naming Bachmann as their preferred second choice candidate, she is likely to benefit most from people who peel off from Romney.

Fourth, Bachmann is a proven fundraiser who will be one of the three (or four) best-funded candidates in the race. Unlike Huckabee who had to rely on a makeshift — and largely non-traditional — campaign organization in Iowa, Bachmann will have all the money she needs to build on her current strength in the state.

All the caveats about it still being early in Iowa (and everywhere else) are, of course, right. (The Iowa caucuses are set for Feb. 6, 2012 — 224 days from today.)

But Bachmann holds the pole position in the Hawkeye State, and there are any number of reasons to believe she can grow her support in the state between now and next February.

South Carolina may have to run caucus instead of primary: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) may force the first-in-the-South primary to become the first-in-the-South caucus.

Haley is expected to veto some of the state election commission’s funding, in a move that could prevent it from being able to help the state GOP run a primary. The move would likely force the party to hold a less-expensive caucus, potentially diminishing its importance in the presidential process.

Two of the four designated early states — Iowa and Nevada — run caucuses, while New Hampshire and South Carolina are currently primary states.

“She’s got every right to veto anything she wants,” said new state GOP Chairman Chad Connelly. Connelly added: “We believe the process is in jeopardy. This isn’t about the money as much as it is about the legal issue.”

Nevada Dems nominate Marshall: Nevada state Treasurer Kate Marshall (D) will be the Democratic nominee in the Sept. 13 special election for Nevada’s 2nd district, after a near-unanimous decision by the state Democratic Party’s central committee on Saturday.

Marshall will face former state senator Mark Amodei (R), who Republicans picked as their nominee last weekend, for the House seat vacated by now-Sen. Dean Heller (R).

The state Supreme Court still has yet to rule on Nevada’s special election law. If the court decides that the race should be a “free for all,” all 29 candidates who filed with the Secretary of State will be put on the ballot. That would boost Democrats, whose best chance at this Republican-leaning seat is a divided GOP field.

As it is, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is helping Marshall raise money, but in a district with more Republicans than Democrats — along with nearly 20,000 members of the generally conservative Independent American Party — it will be an uphill battle for her.

House Majority PAC targets eight Republicans: The House Majority PAC — a super PAC designed to elect Democrats to the House — is launching an ad offensive against eight Republicans

The radio ads — six-figures worth, according to the PAC — hit the Republicans for supporting Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program.

The targets are Reps. Rick Crawford (Ark.), Tim Griffin (Ark.), Scott Tipton (Colo.), Steve King (Iowa), Bobby Schilling (Ill.), Chip Cravaack (Minn.), Charlie Bass (N.H.) and Joe Heck (Nev.). In Cravaack’s district, the ads will be on cable TV.

Doggett’s double dose of bad news: Not only did Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) get a very tough draw in the GOP-passed redistricting map; now he faces a primary against rising-star state Rep. Joaquin Castro (D).

Castro, 36, is the identical-twin brother of popular San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro — both of whom have been eyed for higher office.

Doggett is moving from his current home district — which was changed to be significantly more Republican — in order to run in the newly drawn 35th district. It is a heavily Democratic district, but it is also heavily Hispanic, and Castro will probably have a leg up from the outset.

Doggett does have strong liberal bona fides, which could help him in the new district. But he’s running out of good options.


Obama’s reelection campaign launches a program targeting wealthy donors.

Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno (R) will seek reelection. Fortuno favors statehood for the U.S. territory.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) signs a bill cutting nearly $2 billion in education.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) won’t be supporting Huntsman for president.

Vice President Biden helps the Ohio Democratic Party raise $1.5 million.


With Michele Bachmann’s surge comes fresh scrutiny” — Philip Rucker, Washington Post

Romney will lead GOP in first-quarter fundraising” — Chris Cillizza, Washington Post

GOP White House Hopefuls Face First Big Test This Week” — Reid Wilson, National Journal

Lawmakers expect redistricting litigation — and they’re ready to pay” — Aaron Deslatte, Orlando Sentinel

Inside Nancy Pelosi’s drive to win the House majority back for Democrats” — Karen Tumulty, Washington Post

Rachel Weiner contributed to this report.