She's leading the latest national poll (grain of salt: it's Zogby), and now she's ready to take the plunge:
Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann will officially kick off a three-state campaign announcement tour in her birth state of Iowa on Monday, June 27, 2011, and continue to cities throughout New Hampshire and South Carolina. While meeting with voters, Bachmann will highlight important elements of her personal story and her journey to political life.
The tour features one stop in Iowa, two in New Hampshire, and four in South Carolina. As something of a hometown gal, Bachmann will certainly be a significant force in the Hawkeye State, but it's not surprising that Team Bachmann is gearing up to make a major play for South Carolina. Let's say she wins or comes close in Iowa, and Romney -- as expected -- takes New Hampshire. Palmettoland will immediately become the focal point of the political world, and a huge contest in every respect (momentum, donors, longevity, etc). If she loses by a significant margin in Iowa, South Carolina will become her firewall. It's not a bad play; her politics will resonate with the state's southern evangelical base.
You know who's watching all of this with some degree of alarm? Tim Pawlenty. He's yet to gain any of the traction of a first tier candidate and remains a bit injured by an unimpressive debate performance in New Hampshire. So crucial is Iowa for T-Paw that his campaign is already up with a $50K ad buy there...and it's June of 2011. Why hit Iowa's airwaves now? Without a very strong showing in that state -- perhaps only a win will suffice -- Pawlenty could hit a brick wall. An early Iowa buzz-builder is the Ames straw poll, and don't look now, but it's only two months away. The Pawlenty camp may have some heartburn over sending money out the door so soon, but cash flow might become irrelevant if Ames goes badly. Here's the ad Iowa voters are seeing:
It's a smart spot, putting heavy emphasis on Pawlenty's conservative record "in a liberal state." The note about conservative judges is a clever appeal to Iowa's social conservatives, who know a thing or two about fighting culture wars through the courts. He also talks about his approach to heath reform, using the phrase "no mandates" to place clear daylight between himself and another former governor of a liberal state.