Social Conservatives Say Bachmann Can Battle On

by Betsy Woodruff

Despite being generally ignored in the presidential debates and struggling with deflated poll numbers, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R., Minn.) may still have a shot at winning the Republican nomination — at least, that’s what some social conservative leaders think.

Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of the Family Leader, an Iowa group associated with Focus on the Family, said Bachmann retains an advantage in his state.

“I would argue that she probably has the best state-wide organization right now,” he told National Review. “And the people that helped her win the straw poll in many ways are still with her. The issue is that you’re no longer competing in a 17,000-person straw poll, you’re competing in a 125,000-person caucus. And so the pie got bigger. And not only did the pie get bigger, but you had a couple of candidates get a lot of attention, whether that be Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich or Rick Perry, so this is varsity competition at minimum. And so, I would not count Michele Bachmann out of this at all.”

Rod Martin, a social conservative leader from Florida, agrees. The founder of and president of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies considers that there is “still a pathway for her to emerge.”

“I think it’s a long shot, obviously,” he told National Review. “I don’t think she’s completely over, and I hope her career isn’t — I don’t think people begin to realize how brilliant Michele Bachmann is. The more time I’ve spent around her, the more impressed I’ve been.”

In Martin’s view, her future as a candidate rests entirely on how she does in the Iowa caucus.

“She’s gonna have to pull a rabbit out of a hat right there, there’s no question,” he said. “And likewise, probably, as has been the case all through this selection process, Gingrich will probably stumble, and she’ll need to inherit some of his people.”

Gary Bauer, the president of American Values, said he understands the challenges Bachmann faces as an underdog with poor showing in the polls.

“Gosh, having been a long, long, long, long shot myself, it used to irritate the heck out of me when people were inviting me to leave,” he said. “She has been, I think, outstanding in the debates and so forth, and at one point was doing quite well — now seems to have less of that traction, but I wouldn’t really urge anybody to drop out before Iowa and New Hampshire.”

This presidential primary in particular is open to an upset victory, Bauer said, adding that he doesn’t understand why Santorum hasn’t won more support: “There’s so much in the political election cycle that’s hard to logically understand, and I think in this cycle, the chances for surprise or upsets or new developments is even greater than normal.”

And Tom Minnery, Focus on the Family’s vice president of public policy, said Evangelical Christian voters still love Bachmann.

“She has wonderful positions on issues that are important to social conservatives,” he said, “but it has always been difficult to rise to the presidency from the House of Representatives, and I think she’s experiencing that difficulty. But we’re very proud of the way she espouses strong positions on the issues.”

But does she still have a chance?

“Yea, she has some chance, certainly.”

The Primary Event

Tracking the 2012 election.