Steffen Schmidt, IAFC Blogger
Steffen W. Schmidt, University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Iowa State University, WNYC blogger, and chief Political correspondent of Insider Iowa.
We can barely keep up with the unfolding political events in the past week.
The big panic is that with Nevada setting its caucus date for January 14 the whole calendar has been trashed. Iowa has to have its caucuses one week before New Hampshire so we are now faced with the stunning and a daunting possibility of having the Iowa caucuses somewhere around New Year’s!
People take vacations, are recovering from hangovers, and are generally exhausted from the Holiday Season, which is bad for caucus turnout. The candidates in turn, now have to put their caucus organizations into overdrive because they’ve just lost weeks of prep time.
They now also have to ramp up to warp speed their fundraising because there will be four caucuses and primaries in rapid succession, each requiring organization and investment in media. In state such as New Hampshire ballots need to be printed and voting machines checked and prepped for the primary (Secretary of State Bill Gardner is working on that as we speak). Christmas season is not a good time for all that extra overtime work.
The other news is that Sarah Palin decided not to run for president, no doubt taking her cue from Chris Christie. (Her announcement was overshadowed in a week dominated by news of Steve Jobs' death and the Amanda Knox acquittal in Italy). Bad timing Ms. Palin.
Palin’s star was already drooping at best. Republicans I spoke with were sick and tired of her playing cutesy with running for president. Apparently there is a limit to how much people are willing to be jacked around. The question now is whether Palin will support a candidate or be a sniper, sorry, analyst, sitting on the sidelines. As far as I can tell from talking with New Hampsherites is that no one cares.
When I asked about this one of them said, “What’s happened to Paris Hilton anyway?” Ouch!
Meanwhile, Michelle Bachmann is reported to be in dire straits and may not make it to the Iowa Presidential caucuses unless the deadline keeps getting moved up and we have to caucus here in November!
Her staff has shrunk down. Her major computer services vendor has not been paid and is threatening to pull the plug on their services. I have noticed that her many Web ads, which were well done and ubiquitous when you access sites with an Iowa IP address have vanished.
Of course, her poll numbers are also abysmal 3 percent in one recent poll. She was at 15 percent and rode a wave of optimism about her campaign after winning the August 13 Ames Straw poll. Bachmann started out as an effective fundraiser collecting over $13 million for her last Congressional bid, which is far above the mean.
Then her numbers started to dive in the second reporting quarter, bringing in only $4.2 million compared to, for example, Mitt Romney’s $18.5 million.
The problems for Bachmann are numerous.
First, she has made too many faux pas in her speeches and debates and she came off as flaky and uniformed.
Second, there is also concern about the narrowness of her platform and appeal beyond her passionate conservative supporters.
Third, she has not cultivated big money donors and bundlers. This left her to try and fuel the campaign with Tea Party donations.
Fourth, Rick Perry entered the race and sucked a lot of energy and funding from her.
Bachmann’s problems are, in many ways, the price paid for the early and long presidential selection process that has become the norm in the United States. You need to raise a lot of money but you also have to pace yourself. She did the former but not the latter. In many ways this is a repeat of the Tim Pawlenty burnout.
Steffen W. Schmidt is University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Iowa State University and Chief Political Correspondent of Insider Iowa.