Bachmann Up, T-Paw Down
The ever-fickle political news media is seizing on a new poll in Iowa to further inflate the expectations surrounding Michele Bachmann's formal campaign launch today, and to all but bury Tim Pawlenty's chances.
The first Des Moines Register poll of likely Republican Caucus-goers came out yesterday, and the major buzz involved Bachmann's amazingly good showing--22 percent, and just a point behind Mitt Romney--and Pawlenty's pallid 6 percent.
The punditocracy's reaction to Pawlenty's poor performance in the poll was to take another step towards the conclusion that the man just lacks the positive appeal to get people who like him to actually vote for him.
Meanwhile, the hey-she's-not-all-that-crazy response to Bachmann's performance in the first New Hampshire candidates' debate was intensified by her Iowa poll numbers. She is clearly benefitting from Newt Gingrich's implosion, Herman Cain's predictable fade, and whatever it is that is keeping conservative evangelicals from taking the practical route to Pawlenty-land.
Nate Silver suggested that this poll, and T-Paw's struggles generally, could create enormous impetus for a late entry by Rick Perry. I dunno. Sure, the overall dynamics of the contest continue to favor someone who is not named either Mitt Romney nor Michele Bachmann. It's not clear, however, that Perry has enough time to put together a competent Iowa effort, and moreover, the Texas has a history of crazy utterances that easily rivals Bachmann's.
It's important to remember that the Register poll is of likely caucus-goers, not of likely straw poll attendees. T-Paw still has a clear chance to get back on track through sheer organization muscle at the August 13 straw poll event. That's what Mike Huckabee did in 2008 after coming it at 4% in the first Register poll of likely caucus-goers.
Here's The Iowa Republican's Craig Robinson offering an interesting take on Pawlenty's problem and a possible solution:
Bob Haus, a multi-cycle caucus veteran, best described the Pawlenty campaign's mentality when he told the Huffington Post that he's taking a "Field of Dreams' approach, if you build it, they will come." The only problem is the people are not coming. What Pawlenty has built here in Iowa is impressive, but paying certain consultants and hiring a certain amount of staff has never been the key to building a winning caucus campaign. While his team has studied the campaigns of caucuses past, it seems they forgot to factor in the recent mood of the electorate.
The non-aggression pact that Pawlenty seems to be operating under is a recipe for failure. Maybe instead of trying to prove to he's tough by telling Iowans that he opposes ethanol subsidies, he should get tough with the people he's actually competing against for the Republican nomination.