Bachmann "Cautiously Optimistic" About Straw Poll

Bachmann "Cautiously Optimistic" About Straw Poll

By Scott Conroy - August 9, 2011

ARNOLDS PARK, Iowa -- Just four days before the first major test of strength among the Republican contenders in the 2012 presidential race, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann sounded a hopeful note that the Ames Straw Poll would cement her status as the front-runner in Iowa.

"We are cautiously optimistic, and we’re doing everything we can to try to urge people to come out to the straw poll and give us support," Bachmann told RealClearPolitics in a brief interview Tuesday following a rally here.

Building on the strength of her formidable retail politicking skills and a strong debate performance in New Hampshire in June, Bachmann has surged to the lead in the nation’s first voting state and held a four-point advantage over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the latest RCP average of Iowa polls.

Though Romney won the 2007 Ames Straw Poll, he is not actively competing in this year’s contest, which also serves as a fundraiser for the Iowa GOP.

Bachmann declined an opportunity to criticize Romney for not focusing more of his time and resources in the Hawkeye State -- a sign that she and her campaign strategists are content to avoid mixing it up with her opponents more frequently at this stage of the game.

“Honestly, my eyes have not been on any of the other candidates, quite seriously,” Bachmann said. “We’re trying to win this thing, and we don’t know how this is going to come out, so we’re trying to reach every possible voter that we can. That’s what we’re focused on.”

Bachmann said that she would take “a lifetime” of preparation into Thursday night’s debate in Ames and wouldn’t say whether she had any surprises in store, as she did in New Hampshire when she stole headlines by announcing that she had filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to mount a White House run.

Despite her cautious optimism, Bachmann sought to diminish expectations for her showing in Ames, as her opponents have also done to varying degrees.

“We’re a bit of an underdog,” she said. “A few of the other candidates have been here in Iowa for a couple years, and they’re spending millions of dollars. And so we have about two months into our effort here in Iowa. We’ve been very pleased with the results we’ve seen so far.”

Bachmann arrived at the rally here about an hour behind schedule, but she enjoyed a solid turnout and stayed behind to pose for photographs and shake every hand that was offered to her after the event had concluded.

“I think it’s important that we have a president who’s willing to be bold and different,” she told the cheering crowd. “As president of the United States, I have no interest in whether I would have two terms or one term. All I care about is getting the job done."

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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