A CNN/Time poll released Wednesday showed her running last among the six serious contenders in Iowa, garnering support from only 9 percent of likely caucusgoers surveyed.
Her story line went from poignant to poisonous on Wednesday night. Bachmann’s own Iowa chairman, state Sen. Kent Sorenson — who just hours earlier had appeared with her at a campaign event — suddenly turned up onstage at a rally for Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) and announced that he was ditching her.
She fired back with an accusation that Sorenson “personally told me he was offered a large sum of money to go to work for the Paul campaign.”
Then came another twist: Wes Enos, Bachmann’s political director, contradicted his candidate, saying in a statement that Sorenson’s switch “was in no way financially motivated.”
Sorenson issued a statement saying that he “was never offered money from the Ron Paul campaign or anyone associated with them and certainly would never accept any.”
That Bachmann’s once-promising endeavor should end up in such a surreal place speaks to the larger forces that have defined the primary contest.
As recently as August, Iowa Republicans had stood in line for hours outside her tent at the GOP straw poll in Ames — a supposedly significant contest, in which she narrowly edged out Paul.
The three-term congresswoman, whose cable television presence had developed a national following among tea party supporters, was one of the earliest to benefit from insurgent forces in the GOP who were looking for a fresh face and a passionate voice. But she was also one of the first to be left by the wayside when the next big thing — Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who announced his candidacy on the day of her straw poll victory — came along.
In part because her rise had come so quickly, Bachmann was ill-equipped to build the kind of durable political and financial infrastructure necessary to sustain her candidacy. Despite solid debate performances, she faded deeper and deeper into the background.
In the past week and a half, she has tried to relight the spark of her summer romance with Iowa voters, although the exercise has looked more like speed-dating.
Over 10 days, Bachmann rolled her big campaign bus into every one of the state’s 99 counties for a quick stop and one last personal appeal. As she arrived, the loudspeakers blared Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere.”
Sounding like a fast-talking announcer who rattles off potential side effects at the end of drug commercials, Bachmann got to the point where she could give her stump speech in less than four minutes.
She began her pitch by stressing her Iowa upbringing and, lately, has closed it by comparing herself to former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, a conservative icon.