Politics

To Catch the Leaders, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum Build in Iowa

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: December 10, 2011 3:55 AM
Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum

Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum | Credit: Gage Skidmore - Flickr

With a little over three weeks to go until the Iowa caucus, the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination are looking to make a big splash in the Hawkeye State.

While former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich leads polls at the national level and surveys of Iowa, some of the other candidates are looking to build campaign organizations to ensure they will do well in the Jan. 3 caucus.

Having won the Iowa Republican straw poll in Ames in August, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota has a lot riding on the Hawkeye State. A poor showing there will essentially doom her longshot bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

Having a campaign organization in place has always been key to doing well in Iowa and Bachmann appears to have a solid one in place. On Friday, the congresswoman announced that her team had county chairs in 91 of the 99 counties in Iowa and had precinct leaders in every county.

"I'm honored to have the support from committed conservatives across Iowa," Bachmann said in a statement released on Friday. "There's always been the argument that the presidential battle is waged in Iowa's 18 urban counties and that the 81 less-populous, rural counties don't matter as much. Every voice, every voter counts, and with a win in Iowa, I intend to take those voices with me to the White House."

Keith Nahigian, Bachmann’s campaign manager, weighed in on strategy on Thursday and insisted that his candidate remained a contender.

“Michele is the only candidate in this race with Iowa roots, a proven tea party leader who has picked up critical endorsements in the state of Iowa including notable conservative leaders, tea party activists, and evangelicals,” Nahigian insisted in a memo.

“Unlike other candidates, when Michele goes to Iowa, she's not visiting -- she's going home. These Iowa roots have allowed us to put a campaign chairperson in place for almost all of Iowa's 99 counties, placing our campaign on course for our goal to identify the thousands of precinct captains who will be key for victory on caucus day. This hometown support has also allowed Michele to pick up the endorsements of more than 100 Iowa pastors and growing, further lifting her toward a historic win on Jan. 3rd.”

Looking beyond Iowa, Nahigian maintained that a victory in Iowa would propel Bachmann to winning in South Carolina “as the field narrows to a single choice between a conservative and a nonconservative.” While Nahigian did not name the “nonconservative,” he clearly meant former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, who is leading polls in New Hampshire, which will hold its primary a week after the Iowa caucus.

Bachmann is not the only conservative dark horse looking to make a splash in the Iowa caucus.

On Friday, Republican presidential hopeful former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania gained a big boost for his campaign when he received the endorsement of Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz. Santorum, who came in a surprisingly strong fourth place in the Iowa straw poll, has campaigned hard in the Hawkeye State and has appeared in all 99 counties in the state. Schultz becomes the first statewide elected official to back any of the GOP hopefuls.

"I am honored to receive Secretary of State Schultz's endorsement today,” said Santorum in a statement released Friday morning. “Matt is a rising conservative star, not just in Iowa but for the entire nation. Matt built his own campaign for secretary of state through grass-roots campaigning and exciting activists -- not through TV ads and occasional rallies in Des Moines. Matt went door-to-door, coffee shop to coffee shop and won over the people of Iowa. I learned from Matt Schultz how Iowa campaigns are run, and I am thrilled to have his vote of confidence today. I am excited to work with Matt over the next month as we execute our plan to win the Iowa caucuses."

Santorum also added 15 Iowa Republicans to his state steering committee on Thursday, naming state legislators, pastors, evangelical leaders, Catholic activists, Republican officials and former congressional candidate Jim Gibbons, who coached the Iowa State University Cyclones to the NCAA wrestling championship in 1987.
 
"I am thrilled to add this amazing group of influential conservative and faith leaders to my campaign's Iowa steering committee,” Santorum said. “Their reach throughout the Hawkeye State will be a tremendous asset to our campaign and the momentum they are helping us build will be a key to our victory on Jan. 3. I am honored to have their endorsement today and their tireless efforts on behalf of our campaign for faith, family and freedom."

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, now making his second bid for the Republican nomination, hit college campuses this week with events at Iowa State on Thursday and the University of Northern Iowa on Friday. The Iowa State event drew more than 1,350 supporters.

“Expectations often run high, yet I was still blown away by the energy in the room,” said Edward King, Paul’s national youth director. “With less than a month until the caucuses, students will play a pivotal role in the outcome, and this will only help Ron Paul.”

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.


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