In background conversations this morning with sources close to Michele Bachmann, the message was clear: Last night’s debate was not only a win for her, but a bounce — and a much-need one, at that. In recent weeks, some in her circle were surprised at Rick Perry’s surge. They expected him to rise, but not at this clip. “So we needed to mix it up,” says one source, and Bachmann agreed.
But what was notable about last night, sources say, was how Bachmann, with ease, picked her spots against Perry. As planned, she purposefully stayed back from him on Social Security, instead choosing to go for the jugular on HPV vaccinations. The strategy went as planned, and right after the debate, the campaign sent out fundraising pitches reiterating her position on this issue. The campaign wants to continue to hammer him from the right, giving Bachmann some breathing room in that space. With the Tampa debate crucial for momentum, her advisers are pleased that she stepped up, and “appreciated the gravity of the situation, the need for a good debate,” as one puts it. “It’s game on,” he says. “We have to keep developing our narrative and stay close to the fire.”