From MPR’s Brett Neely:
(WASHINGTON)-When Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., offered to buy the entire 11,000-strong crowd at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, a drink, it seemed like an off-the-cuff gesture. Not really, as it turns out.
Instead, the free drink offer gave fellow MPR reporter Mark Zdechlik and I a glimpse inside the savvy Bachmann political machine.
After being given a room number, Mark and I searched the winding halls of Washington’s Marriott Wardman Park hotel looking for Bachmann’s event. Instead of coming across an open bar, we found ourselves in a cramped hallway filled hundreds of young students who make up a large number of the CPAC attendees.
Bachmann staff members asked them to line up and were handing out forms for each to fill out. From a glance at a distance, the forms included information about where the attendees go to school and their email addresses.
After waiting in line, the students were herded into a small room, crowded with more Bachmann staff, photographers and the Congresswoman herself. Each person got a quick photo-op with Bachmann and was then handed a baseball jersey that said “Bachmann 12″ on the back, and a free drink voucher good at the Marriott’s lobby bar.
While many of the Bachmann fans in line are too young to become major political donors, by gathering their email addresses, Bachmann’s organization could be creating a mailing list it can use to recruit volunteers for future campaigns.
Out in the hallway, Mark and I met Heather Murphy from Bedford, PA, who said she, “loves Bachmann,” and especially admires that the Congresswoman, “doesn’t back down.”
When Mark asked Murphy what she thought the meaning of the jersey with the 12 on it was, Murphy said, “it gives me the chills, I’m not gonna lie.”
Murphy said if she were asked, “I would support her, I would wear a volunteer shirt and would pull a late night or two [for Bachmann] as a volunteer.”
That seems like a good deal for Bachmann’s campaign team, and all it cost was the price of a drink ticket.