DES MOINES, Iowa — Less than a week before the Iowa caucuses, Rep. Michele Bachmann’s campaign has suffered two back-to-back blows: the defection of her Iowa chair and a request from a church leader to drop out of the race.
Late Wednesday, news reports surfaced that two evangelical pastors asked both Bachmann and Rick Santorum, who has also been courting the religious vote here in Iowa, to drop out of the race. They fear the two could split the evangelical vote and give front-runner Mitt Romney a leg up in the race.
Just hours later, Bachmann lost her Iowa chairman, Sen. Kent Sorenson, to the Ron Paul campaign, which has gained significant ground here in recent weeks.
Still, Bachmann has pledged to continue her race, pointing out that she has widespread support among other church leaders. And despite poll numbers that indicate Bachmann will not finish at the top in next week’s election, she is clearly well-liked among voters here.
Nevertheless, concerns about Bachmann’s campaign continue to come up in conversations with other members of Iowa’s Republican party.
At a corner table of the Indianola Pizza Ranch restaurant, Rick Halverson and Steve McCoy, who chair the Warren County Republicans, talked about Bachmann’s chances in Iowa.
To be clear: both men like Bachmann. But Halverson, who is likely to back Rick Santorum next week, is among those who have asked Bachmann to change the direction of her campaign. He says he isn’t sure that America is ready for a woman president.
“I asked Michele today, ‘you and one or two of the other candidates need to team up and get in the same car and drive it all the way to the White House,’” Halverson said. “I don’t care who’s in the front seat or who’s in the back seat, but you’re splitting the good conservative vote too many ways here, and I’m afraid that’s going to put somebody like Mitt Romney in the White House.”
Halverson worries that Romney can’t beat Barack Obama in the general election, and his party will once again have missed an opportunity to put a conservative in the White House.
Some Iowa voters also worry about Bachmann’s electability in the general election.
McCoy says that the perception that Bachmann couldn’t do well in nationally is the result of a poorly constructed campaign. Her handlers, he said, have prevented her from being herself.
“Why did she win the straw poll? Because at that point early in her campaign she was connecting,” McCoy said. “I think that her handlers have handled her terribly.”
Bachmann hasn’t gotten the proper exposure, she’s been given the wrong advice by her staff, and her campaign speeches have become canned, McCoy said.
Case in point: In nearly every speech, Bachmann brings up her family and children. Halverson said the talking point got tired; voters, he said, want to hear something new from a candidate, or they will lose interest.
“People said, ‘we don’t want that, we want more of you,’” McCoy said. “That’s one of the things I told one of her campaign managers: tell Michele to go be Michele again. Quit telling her what the national consultants out of Washington D.C. want her to be.”