Only one thing stands between Rep. Michele Bachmann and a game-changing win in the Iowa caucuses, says Jennifer Jacobs in The Des Moines Register, "and his name is Rick Perry." A month ago, Bachmann was flying high. She was the preferred candidate of social conservatives wary of Mitt Romney — sweeping to victory in Iowa's Ames Straw Poll, forcing Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty out of the race, and hovering near the top of other GOP presidential polls. But now, Texas Gov. Perry is dominating so much of the "Tea Party/social conservative space" that Bachmann is losing altitude quickly in Iowa, which hosts critical first-in-the-nation caucuses early next year. While it's true that Bachmann's candidacy is all but dead if she loses in Iowa, don't count her out yet. She "still has a good chance to drag herself out of the shadows." She needs to "come out swinging," bag key endorsements, and "camp out in Iowa." But also, Jacobs says, Bachmann just needs to loosen up. Here, an excerpt:
In recent weeks, the campaign has carefully staged her appearances: A muscle-bound motorcoach rumbles up, an Elvis tune blasts to set the vibe, the lighting is controlled, the message is prescribed.
"I would rather have somebody who's out there who says what they believe and is able to overcome trivial misquotes or trivial misunderstandings more so than someone who is so guarded and so careful that you're not sure you're getting an honest answer," said Iowa state Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, who has endorsed Bachmann.
If her Iowa supporters have their way, Bachmann's campaign will dial down the rah-rah stuff and guide the candidate to more one-on-one time with Iowans, milling in cafes, living rooms and backyards.
"No fancy speeches — just get out and interact with the voters," said Iowa state Sen. Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, and Bachmann supporter.