In the Arena

4 Days Till Iowa: Bye-Bye Bachmann

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Sometimes politics can be very cruel. Michele Bachmann is in the midst of the most embarrassing last week in Iowa that I’ve ever seen a candidate experience. Her campaign co-chair dropped her for Ron Paul two days ago. And Friday’s NBC/Marist poll brings more bad news. She’s dead last, the only candidate in single digits. But worse, she’s last among Tea Party supporters as well:

Santorum 20%

Romney 17%

Paul 17%

Gingrich 16%

Perry 15%

Bachmann 10%

You’ll remember that Bachmann was a founder and the leader of the Tea Party caucus in the House of Representatives. She seemed perfectly positioned to corner the Christian vote in Iowa, her home state. So what happened? She didn’t perform badly in the debates–at least, she was no more ridiculous than any of the other non-Romney candidates on the stage–and she was actually pretty effective in the first and last of the forums. She didn’t have much money; but then, neither do Santorum or Gingrich.

I suspect Maggie Haberman nails it here:

Conservative radio host Steve Deace, who is neutral in the race but who has described Michele Bachmann as the most consistent conservative in her record, expressed surprise at her past few weeks — noting that she’d accused [evangelical leader] Bob Vander Plaats of trying to get her to drop out (which he denied), accused Sorenson of being bought off (which he denied), a super PAC that had backed her switched to Mitt Romney, and she asserted that no pastors have asked her to get out of the race (though a prominent one said he did).

In a fairly wifty field, Bachmann seemed wiftier than most. She was for nothing, except repealing ObamaCare and eliminating the Environmental Protection Agency. She demonstrated a casual relationship with the truth, as did the execrable Herman Cain. These are not presidential qualities. There are those who will blame sexism–but compare her to Hillary Clinton, who does have the dignity and steadiness to be a President. Bachmann doesn’t, and that’s what did her in.

I expect she’ll be the only candidate to drop out of the race when the caucuses are done. She has to start thinking about running for Congress in the fall. Rick Perry may take a serious look at going home as well. Newt Gingrich is still leading the polls in South Carolina and he will stay in, hoping for a southern revival–although, if he continues his nosedive those hopes will wither.

It is said that Iowa may not pick the eventual nominee, but it does winnow the field. The reverse may be true this year: If only Bachmann drops, the field will not have been winnowed much. But if Romney wins, the nominee may well have been picked.