As the Aug. 13 Ames straw poll approaches, you will see increasingly desperate efforts by the trailing candidates to make up ground. For Tim Pawlenty, his campaign previously said that he was “going all in.” Pawlenty himself repeatedly said he’d have to finish in the “top few spots.” Now his press secretary claims, “We want to show progress in Ames, [do] better than sixth or seventh.” What, edge out Hermann Cain? (With Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman not competing, it is hard to come up with seven candidates who will participate.) Apparently, the political pundits and donors are supposed to swallow that.

Then there is the persistent story about Rep. Michele Bachmann’s headaches, coming up a few weeks before the Iowa poll. The level of detail about her schedule could have come from only someone on her staff at the time. Bachmann has had a lot of staff turnover, but this sort of personal attack, timed as it is, certainly has a political motivation. It’s only a matter of time before the dots are connected to aggrieved former Bachmann staffers and a competing campaign.Well, that’s the mystery for now.

But nothing stays secret in politics for very long. And while the accusations have yet to tarnish Bachmann’s standing, any campaign found to be involved will certainly suffer the wrath of the voters. As one Republican operative looking on with amazement put it, “This crosses the line — it’s one thing to say she doesn’t have experience; it’s an entirely different to peddle personal medical information.”

At any rate, it is getting close to make-or-break time for a number of candidates and to decision time for Texas Gov. Rick Perry. In a few weeks we’ll have the first bit of evidence as to whose campaign is on the rise and whose never took off.