One’s a relatively little-known candidate who’s desperate for media opportunities to push her message to voters, the other’s internationally famous and doesn’t have to worry (yet) about how to package herself. This is apples and oranges, in other words — but even so, there’s truth to it. Palin has been vastly better about chatting with non-Fox media in unscripted settings since she started her bus tour. From what I hear, she did at least an hour of free-fire Q&A with hordes of press last week while walking around the fairgrounds. Bachmann, meanwhile, has lately been so carefully choreographed that she wouldn’t mingle at the Republican dinner last night in her own hometown. If you missed Ed’s post about that, stop here and go read it. I’ve seen half a dozen media accounts today of what happened at the dinner and they all jibe with his. It’s shocking to me that, in her own backyard, in a state that famously prizes face-to-face contact with the candidates, Bachmann would hole up in her bus until she’s called to the stage rather than press the flesh with Iowans. (Perry took full advantage by working the room in her absence.) She kept fairgoers waiting half an hour for her speech on Friday too — and then spoke for just two and a half minutes before rushing away. And this isn’t the first time she’s disappointed an otherwise excited audience.
But it gets worse:
On her victory lap of Iowa yesterday, Straw Poll winner Rep. Michele Bachmann paid repeated tribute to her local roots, and repeatedly mentioned her family reunion that day, citing it as an excuse for her late arrival at a local party event in Waterloo.
But Bachmann’s mother and two cousins told POLITICO’s Emily Schultheis that Bachmann didn’t attend the reunion, though her husband and children did. Her spokeswoman, Alice Stewart, didn’t respond to two emails asking for an explanation of the disparity…
That evening, she answered a reporter’s question about why she’d turned up late to the Black Hawk County Republican Party dinner in Waterloo…
“We had a big family reunion just north of Waterloo,” she said. She also said she’d visited a local “shut-in.”
I don’t want to oversell all this — she’s campaigned tirelessly and she just won Ames, so she’s doing something right — but it’s mystifying to me that she wouldn’t use her first direct confrontation to try to out-schmooze him on her own turf. After all, one of Bachmann’s advantages before the straw poll was her perceived authenticity relative to the top-tier candidates. (Same was true for Huckabee before the caucuses in 2008.) That was a low bar: Anyone would seem authentic relative to Romney, and Pawlenty never found his identity as the “conservative but not too conservative” establishment hope. With Perry now in and Palin maybe set to follow, the bar is suddenly way, way higher. Apart from her local roots, what’s Bachmann’s argument once there are not one but two charming former governors famous for their personal touch and their conservative bona fides competing alongside her?
Or maybe none of this matters and the local roots will put her over the top anyway? Talk to me, Iowans.