Michele Bachmann is not giving up her presidential race despite finishing last in the Iowa caucuses. She's scheduled to be in South Carolina later today, and says she believes she can still win the Republican nomination.
Bachmann had been predicting a caucus "miracle," and that Iowans would "come home" to her. After all, she explained day after day campaigning throughout Iowa, she was born in Waterloo and she won the Ames Straw Poll in August. But the reality of the caucus returns showed no such miracle. Bachmann garnered just 5 percent of the vote statewide and didn't win a single county.
Still, when Bachmann emerged to address a few dozen supporters gathered the ballroom of a suburban Des Moines hotel Tuesday night, the scene was oddly celebratory.
Her new Iowa campaign chairman, Iowa state Sen. Brad Zaun, whose predecessor jumped ship for Ron Paul's campaign last week, welcomed Bachmann to the microphone.
"I want to introduce to you the next president of the United States, Michele Bachmann," he told the cheering crowd.
Bachmann was all smiles, surrounded by members of her family, as she railed on the Obama administration, and said she would be forever grateful to the people of Iowa.
"Just be prepared, the pundits and the press will again try and pick the nominee based on tonight's results, but there are many more chapters to be written on the path to our party's nomination," she said. "And I prefer to let the people of the country decide who will represent us."
But analysts are hard-pressed to understand why Bachmann thinks she can do better outside of Iowa. With its concentration of social conservatives and evangelical Christians, Iowa was thought to be some of the most fertile ground for a candidate like her.
"It's very difficult to see where congresswoman Bachmann's campaign can do much better any place else," said Peter Brown, Assistant Director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
"She spent in inordinate amount of time in Iowa. At one time she was the front-runner. She won the Iowa Straw Poll back in August. But that was August. In January she ran basically dead-last," he said. "The notion that the voters of New Hampshire or South Carolina or Florida will feel much differently is not one likely to occur."
Bachmann's poor Iowa showing will almost certainly make it even more difficult for her to raise money for her campaign. Even a better funded candidate who finished with twice as many votes than Bachmann in Iowa-- Texas Gov. Rick Perry-- said on Tuesday he would reassess whether to continue his campaign.
Bachmann sounds like she doesn't plan to compete heavily in New Hampshire. She will be in Manchester for a debate on Saturday, but is heading to South Carolina first. That state holds the third nominating contest on Jan. 21.
Bachmann supporters who turned out to see her at the hotel said they wanted her to continue.
"Iowa is just one state, and we know that her organization in South Carolina is stellar," said Vicki Crawford. She also insisted Bachmann had strong debate skills that could help her in South Carolina.
"If she has a really good finish in South Carolina, she's born again," Crawford said.
Meanwhile, the biggest story out of the Iowa caucuses was the eleventh-hour rise of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who ended up winning the battle for the support of evangelical conservative Christians. Like Bachmann, Santorum is expected to put a lot more energy into South Carolina than New Hampshire, where Mitt Romney appears to have a lock on next week's primary. But unlike Bachmann, Santorum heads south with momentum --not the baggage of a devastating loss in Iowa.