AMES, Iowa — Rep. Michele Bachmann raised the stakes for herself in the Hawkeye State this past weekend.
“The whole thing could get decided in the straw poll!” she predicted with enthusiasm as she barnstormed for support and collected data on GOP voters who might help her deliver a strong showing in next month’s critical test.
As the Minnesota Congresswoman introduced herself as someone with conservative street cred, members of Team Bachmann were ready with iPads. They smiled at Iowans fanning themselves and watching the hullaballoo created by Bachmann’s small entourage. “Do you have your tickets yet to the Ames straw poll? We’ll send them to you.”
With a few quick taps on the screen, the Bachmann organizers had entered names, phone numbers and addresses and had even gotten in a question: Will you consider backing her in the caucuses next February? Within seconds, the all-important details were uploaded to Bachmann’s database.
Those not willing to sign on just yet were handed slick “Meet Me in Ames” fliers, sheets that offered rides to the Aug. 13 Ames straw poll at the Hilton Coliseum and declared that Bachmann will “stand for our shared conservative values.”
She wasn’t bashful in asking for support.
“We can do this if you are onboard. We can do this if you not only come out to the straw poll but if you organize and bring everyone with you that you possibly can,” Bachmann told about 100 curious Iowans under a blazing sun on Sunday.
In Clive, Bachmann told one voter her Iowa support has surpassed the national frontrunner, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R). “But we take nothing for granted, we need your help,” she said.
The lone stump speech Bachmann delivered over the weekend was a smorgasbord of red-meat rhetoric. She said that as president, she’d never appoint an activist judge and promised that no teleprompters or czars would follow her to “the Bachmann White House.”
The “Meet Me in Ames” tour included multiple stops at fairgrounds and found Bachmann squeezing babies’ cheeks and sampling local fare. “This is exactly what a chicken should look like,” she said in Knoxville, holding the bird. A few minutes earlier, she had been petting a goat.
Bachmann said in an interview that the weekend tour was meant to “actually get one-on-one in people’s worlds.”
“I feel like when I go back to Washington, D.C., I’m not just in that bubble of the D.C. mindset, I know exactly what people in Jasper County are telling me,” Bachmann told Roll Call and the Des Moines Register on her campaign bus just after greeting voters at the fairgrounds in Colfax.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.