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Bachmann, Perry Vie to Be Surprise Iowa Finisher

Bachmann, Perry Vie to Be Surprise Iowa Finisher

By Scott Conroy - December 20, 2011


On Aug. 14, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry converged on the Black Hawk County Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner in Waterloo, Iowa, with their heads held high.

Fresh off her Ames Straw Poll win, Bachmann was nonetheless already showing signs of hubris on that mid-August night. She remained in her bus, parked outside, ahead of her remarks and refused to enter the building until the house lights had been dimmed to her liking -- and after she was twice introduced by the emcee. It was a celebrity-style act that miffed more than a few attendees.

Perry, on the other hand, shone as brightly as his freshly polished cowboy boots. The charismatic Texan worked the room with Clintonian ease and, seemingly overnight, passed Bachmann for the lead in the nation’s first voting state.

Bachmann and Perry were the stars of the show, with Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich mere afterthoughts in the media narrative of the impending battle for Iowa.

Three months later, it is the latter three candidates who are jostling for position atop the Iowa heap, while the Minnesota congresswoman and the Texas governor hold down fourth and fifth place in most recent polls.

With a top-three Iowa finish likely essential for both Bachmann and Perry to move on to New Hampshire as viable contenders for the nomination, each candidate is crisscrossing the Hawkeye State at a breakneck pace to try to make up lost ground the old-fashioned way.

The two candidates set out last week on major Iowa bus tours that have generated a significant amount of local media attention.

Perry’s road trip will last two weeks, while Bachmann is aiming to hit all 99 counties in a 10-day sprint that makes previous late-campaign blitzes in the state look like leisurely strolls.

Despite recent portrayals of the race as a two-man fight between Romney and Gingrich, both underdog candidates can find plenty of reasons to believe that their efforts won’t be in vain.

With Gingrich’s recent surge in Iowa already deflating significantly, an opening appears to exist for either Bachmann or Perry to once again rise to the top of the heap at just the right time.

“There is a real opportunity for a Perry or Bachmann surge here,” said Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s communications director, Tim Albrecht, who has been watching the race’s dynamic as closely as anyone in the state. “You have to give the edge to the candidates putting the time in on the ground here. Both Bachmann and Perry are doing the exact right things to achieve a top-three finish in Iowa. It's just a matter of who is the better messenger and who has the better message.”

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

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