U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann wrapped up a campaign swing through South Carolina Thursday, hoping to capitalize on her recent victory in the Ames Straw Poll.
Bachmann has been courting South Carolinians for most of the week as the southern state will be critical to Bachmann's effort to win the Republican nomination for president. With Texas Gov. Rick Perry joining the race for the Republican ticket, Bachmann will likely face a tougher time in South Carolina than she did in Iowa.
Complete MPR coverage of Rep. Michele Bachmann's presidential run
Still, Republicans in South Carolina have given Bachmann a good reception.
"You know, I had a nice time talking to her and shaking her hand and everything and I told her she would make a good president," said Tommy Lee Rice, who served Bachmann a chili-cheese burger with French fries and onion rings at the Beacon Drive-In in Spartanburg, S.C.
Rice estimated that about 400 people turned out to hear Bachmann speak at the Beacon. He said many of them lingered to greet her afterward.
It's no surprise that Bachmann chose South Carolina as her first stop following the Iowa Straw Poll victory, Furman University Political Science Professor Danielle Vinson said. Like Iowa, South Carolina is flush with conservative Republicans. It also has strong tea party and social conservative movements.
"She's got sort of a natural base in South Carolina with the tea party," Vinson said. "The tea party is fairly strong up here and they like her, and so this was a way for her to kind of capitalize on the attention she got coming out of Iowa and find herself in front of crowds that were excited about her."
Bachmann might be a good fit for many Republicans in South Carolina, but she has newfound, tough competition in Perry, Clemson University Political Science Professor Dave Woodard said.
“She's got sort of a natural base in South Carolina with the tea party.”Danielle Vinson, Furman University political science professor
Woodard, who is also a Republican consultant, said Bachmann and Perry essentially hold the same positions on the issues. What distinguishes the two are their resumes.
Woodard said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is all but ignoring South Carolina, setting up a battle between Perry and Bachmann. He predicts South Carolina Republicans will favor Perry not only because he's a fellow southerner but also because of his executive experience as governor, his record of military service and because he is male.
"You know the problem is you have a conservative southern state, fewest number of elected female representatives, strong military presence, strong tea party presence but more than the tea party, just a strong strain of conservatism here that has picked the nominee every time since Ronald Reagan," Woodard said. "I just don't see Michele Bachmann falling into first place in that scenario."
Woodard also says although Bachmann has demonstrated her ability to raise millions of dollars, it will be difficult for her to compete with the Texas money that'll be on Perry's side.
To counter criticism about her lack of executive experience, Bachmann has emphasized background as a businesswoman and former tax attorney.
Since Perry entered the race, Bachmann has added tough talk about the military to her stump speech, perhaps to counter Perry's credentials as a former Air Force pilot.
"We wouldn't even have the privilege of gathering here today if it wasn't for our men and women in uniform who fought for us," Bachmann said this week in Greenville, S.C. "They deserve our respect, our admiration and as commander-in-chief the number one duty of the presidency, I will have their back and they will have full resources at their disposal."
South Carolina is expected to be the third state to weigh in on the GOP nomination battle next year, following Iowa and New Hampshire.
But because of Romney' popularity in New Hampshire, South Carolina will almost certainly be Bachmann's top priority after Iowa.