Chris Cillizza
Reporter September 9, 2011

Modern politics moves fast. Too fast if you are Rep. Michele Bachmann.

A month ago, the Minnesota Republican was the toast of the town — the town being Ames, Iowa — when she emerged victorious in a straw poll traditionally regarded as a key early test of organization and firepower in the GOP presidential primary process.

Today? Nowheresville: population, Bachmann.

Two national polls — one conducted by The Washington Post and ABC News, the other by NBC and the Wall Street Journal — each showed Bachmann’s support cut in half over the past few weeks in a hypothetical 2012 Republican primary matchup.

Those unfavorable numbers provided the backdrop to Wednesday’s Republican debate in California, where Bachmann was an afterthought in the battle between Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. (There was a 20-minute or so period when Bachmann never uttered a peep.)

What happened? Lots of things. Perry got into the race, stepping on Bachmann’s post-Ames momentum and cutting into her tea party support. Bachmann’s anti-everything approach began to raise questions among rank-and-file Republicans about her electability. And the intense focus on the economy as the main issue of the election made her strength among social conservatives less relevant.

No matter the reason, the reality is clear. Bachmann, once a card-carrying member of the GOP field’s top tier, is now struggling to remain relevant.

Michele Bachmann, for peaking too early and too quickly, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

Have a candidate for the Worst Week in Washington? E-mail Chris Cillizza at chris.cillizza@wpost.com .

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By Chris Cillizza