As it happens, Bachmann gets raucous applause during her speech at the next night’s Reagan Dinner in Des Moines for her “no compromise” theme. Delivered right after her invocation that Obama “will be a one-term president” (a line that Bachmann, surprisingly, delivers so rapidly this night that there is no chance for the audience to chant it with her, normally a staple of Bachmann speeches), she stresses the necessity of a candidate willing to fight.
“We have to have a commitment that is absolutely ground in cement that our nominee will be an individual who will stand strong and make sure there is no compromise with repealing Obamacare 100 percent; no compromise with repealing Dodd-Frank, the jobs and housing destruction act 100 percent; no compromise abolishing the tax code and [re]creating it with a Ronald Reagan–style pro-growth tax code; no compromise with liberty,” she says. “No compromise. That’s America. We’ve done it before. We’ll do it again.”
A couple of the Reagan dinner attendees I speak to view the conventional wisdom as underestimating Bachmann’s chances in Iowa. “The perception is that perhaps she’s gotten some facts wrong, or she doesn’t always say things in a skillful way,” says Ray Dearin, a professor emeritus at the Iowa State University. “That’s the national perception. I haven’t noticed that. I’ve seen her a lot lately, and she always seems to have good crowds and be well-received.”
“I know she’ll come back,” says Bob Mason, a semi-retired Iowan farmer who intends to vote for Bachmann. “This is home country [for Bachmann]. She did real well in the straw poll, of course, and won it. A lot of the others, at least some of the others, have had their day already. Some of them kind of pushed her down in the polls. But I think when it’s over with, I believe she’ll probably pull it out. I really do. I’m not just saying that.”
“Being at Ames was a fun homecoming for me,” Bachmann told the reporters after her economic speech at Iowa State University. The straw poll was also held at the university, in the parking lots and lawns bordering another building on the campus. As I passed it on the way to Bachmann’s speech, there was no marker to indicate that, on this patch of grass, Dairy Queen employees had swirled soft serve cones for hundreds as Tim Pawlenty’s presidential dreams died; or that, adjoining these spaces in the parking lot, a buoyant Bachmann had celebrated with supporters after winning the straw poll, her husband Marcus passing out balloons to float as high as Bachmann’s hopes were at the time.
Even if her fundraising and poll numbers are low now, the campaign remains optimistic that Bachmann will rise again and be more than a one-hit-wonder candidate who triumphed at Ames.
“We’re at that point in the process where the people who are going to go to their caucus on January 3 are starting to make their choices again,” says Eric Woolson, Bachmann’s Iowa campaign manager, and a longtime Iowa political veteran. “I just feel very confident that they know, when they size up all the candidates, they’re going to go with the consistent conservative, they’re going to go with somebody who did have success in the straw poll, and they’re going to go with her.”
— Katrina Trinko is an NRO reporter.