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Bachmann Knows It’s Iowa or Bust

Christina Bellantoni/Roll Call
Rep. Michele Bachmann campaigned across Iowa this past weekend, stumping for support in the upcoming Ames straw poll.

State Sen. Brad Zaun, who lost a challenge to Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) last cycle, introduced Bachmann during the Saturday stops. State Sen. Kent Sorenson picked up the job Sunday, presenting the Congresswoman to diners at the Machine Shed, where $10.99 gets you a buffet with unlimited omelettes, bacon, biscuits and sausage gravy.

“Farming is everyone’s bread and butter” read a banner outside the restaurant, which seats more than 500.

The restaurant was so large that Bachmann didn’t get to every corner. One woman instead came to her and reported back to her table of seven shortly after speaking with Bachmann: “She’s standing firm on the debt ceiling.”

That was the hot topic during the weekend, with Iowans at every stop asking Bachmann what she will do when the House votes to increase the debt limit.

Inside the Jaarsma Bakery in the Dutch-heritage town of Pella, Galen Redshaw of Johnston had a message for the Congresswoman. “Keep holding their feet to the fire on this debt thing,” he said.

After eyeing a snow-cone stand at yet another fair, Bachmann turned her attention to Bud Kernes, a garbage-truck driver from Pleasant Hill. He asked about spending, and she traced a line up and down the back of her yellow dress. “This is a titanium spine, that’s what you need to know,” she told him.

Bachmann was born in Waterloo and spent her adolescence in the Hawkeye State, and she didn’t let anyone forget it.

When people apologized to her for the sweltering temperatures, which reached 97 on Saturday, she laughed and told them not to worry: “I grew up in Iowa— it’s July!”

Iowa voters, who famously wait to meet candidates multiple times before deciding who to support, seemed receptive to Bachmann’s message.

But some of her slip-ups chased her around the state.

Ron Houlihan of West Des Moines, for example, approached Bachmann as she left a festival in Clive to ask why she signed a controversial pledge from the Family Leader, a social conservative group.

“I believe in marriage, that’s all,” Bachmann said before hopping on the bus.

That didn’t satisfy Houlihan, who said he will probably support Texas Rep. Ron Paul in the caucuses. “I don’t know why someone would sign something that’s anti-gay,” he said.

Her call to “beat Obama” in 2012 received the loudest cheers during her speech in Ames. Barack Obama’s presidential trajectory began in the Hawkeye State in 2008 with a win at the caucuses, and he went on to win Iowa in the general election. But that feel-good victory has faded, and several Iowans who backed Obama last time around said they are done.

Retired bar owner Harry Koopmans of Pella said he’s unlikely to back Obama a second time around.

“We’re in a mess. I think he’s trying,” Koopmans said. “But [I’m] not sure I’ll do it again.”

Sitting on the next bench over, Donna VandeKraats, sheepishly admitted she supported Obama in the general election.

“Yes, I voted for the bad one,” she said. “At that time everybody was so against [President George W.] Bush. But now you’ve got him, and he’s worse.”

Before Bachmann can turn her attention to Obama, she needs to top the Republican field.

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