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Bachmann and the buzz factor

at 06:30 AM ET, 08/19/2011


Republican presidential candidate and Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann greets supporters at the Republicans of Black Hawk County Dinner in Waterloo, Iowa, last weekend. (REUTERS/Jim Young)
Is Michele Bachmann losing her buzz?

The Minnesota congresswoman, fresh off her victory in the all-important Ames Straw Poll, seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle in recent days. Rather than getting a bump from her big win, she’s been getting bumped out of the picture by Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

A look at the Twitter statistics tells the story. While the terms “Rick Perry” and “Michele Bachmann” were getting roughly the same number of mentions throughout July, Perry has taken off in August in a way that Bachmann hasn’t. He has had more than 40,000 mentions each day of this week, while Bachmann cracked 20,000 mentions just once – the day she won the straw poll. (A comparison of “Perry” and “Bachmann” yields a similar gap.)

So what’s happened? Isn’t a win worth anything anymore?

The problem is that Bachmann is no longer the buzziest candidate in the race. And that could be damaging to her campaign.

Bachmann’s campaign was built on buzz. As the rest of the GOP presidential field left many Republicans voters uninspired and looking for alternatives — and as other candidates like Mitt Romney quietly bided their time — she filled that gap and got the media attention that went along with it.

Adding Perry to the mix, though, creates problems. All of a sudden, there is another buzzy and quotable candidate who many in the media think is actually capable of winning the race. And largely because of that latter fact, Bachmann has suffered.

Some of that isn’t her fault, but observers say she needs to switch things up to adjust.

“Bachmann’s challenge is to transfer her ideological strength to a narrative that includes electability,” said GOP strategist Scott Reed. “She is still the queen of the Iowa State Fair, but the caucus is months away, and she needs a second strong state.”

Added Democratic pollster Fred Yang: “She may need to find some other issues to gain traction other than constantly attacking President Obama.”

To this point, Bachmann has been largely off-limits to reporters, with her staff being fiercely – and sometimes too fiercely – protective of her.

Sarah Palin, of course, has a reputation for largely ignoring the mainstream media, too, but even she spent lots of time working the crowds at the Iowa State Fair last week. Bachmann, by contrast, spoke at the Des Moines Register’s soapbox for about two and a half minutes and was just as quickly ushered to her campaign bus.

We’ve said for a while that if Palin ran, she wouldn’t be able to avoid the media as much as she has in the past. Bachmann is perhaps proving that point.

The problem for Bachmann is that a candidate needs to stay part of the picture and needs to evolve. Thus far, the basics have been enough to keep her in the headlines and on TV, but she’s got competition now.

Bachmann spokeswoman Alice Stewart told The Fix that the congresswoman’s crowds in South Carolina have been big and that volunteers and contributors have increased since last weekend.

“As more people hear Michele’s message of smaller government, fiscal responsibility, and strong national defense, the more they want to be a part of Team Bachmann,” Stewart said.

Bachmann has essentially two options: let Perry do his thing and hope that it doesn’t pan out, or start competing with him.

The former risks letting him define the race, while the latter risks bringing them both down and opening the door wide to the man who remains the race’s favorite — Romney.

Either way, though, Bachmann needs to regain her buzz or risk being labeled an Iowa-only phenomenon.

Perry looking good in Louisiana, Missouri: Despite just entering the presidential race, Perry is already a frontrunner in Louisiana and Missouri, according to new polling conducted for the GOP firmWilson-Perkins-Allen Research.

A sneak peak at the WPA polls show Perry trailing Romney 25 percent to 22 percent in Missouri, with Bachmann third at 13 percent. In Louisiana, the governor from neighboring Texas leads Bachmann 30 percent to 16 percent, with Romney next at 15 percent. The rest of the candidates are in single digits in both states.

Neither Missouri not Louisiana are crucial early states (the Missouri primary is current set for Feb. 7, but should be moved to March 6), but they do give an indication of how Perry could be received in the Midwest and the South.

House Majority PAC targets Lungren and Duffy: A Democratic super PAC is going up with ads hitting Reps. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) and Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) for their voting records, accusing them of favoring the wealthy.

The House Majority PAC ads point to votes that they say favor the wealthiest Americans.

“If you have to make millions to get our congressman’s attention,” says the ad, “it’s time to find a new congressman.”

The ads are part of a six-figure ad buy that began last week, when the PAC targeted three GOP freshmen in tough districts.

Fixbits:

Palin says Obama is being “very tone deaf” by taking a vacation right now.

Republicans — including Romney and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) — join Obama’s call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, but Romney and Perry criticized Obama for not doing it sooner.

Perry weathers a storm (of hecklers) in New Hampshire.

Palin praises Perry for his Federal Reserve comments.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) wants Obama to ask the Supreme Court to decide on the constitutionality of the healthcare bill.

Freshman Rep. Larry Bucshon (R) gets a repeat primary with tea partier Kristi Risk, whom he narrowly beat with 33 percent of the vote in a crowded 2010 primary.

The Maine Republican Party’s redistricting plan doesn’t do much to make Rep. Mike Michaud (D) more vulnerable.

West Virginia’s status quo congressional redistricting map is signed into law.

The richest member of Congress is ... Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who passes Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) for the distinction.

Must-reads:

Republicans and Democrats spar over new House maps” — Jeremy Pelofsky, Reuters

Five myths about Rick Perry” — Evan Smith, Washington Post

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