Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann heads home to her birthplace near Waterloo, Iowa, today, to address thousands of Republicans who will be caucusing at a large arena there.
Bachmann hopes to convince many of the undecided caucus-goers to support her in tonight's balloting, and give her campaign the boost it needs to regain momentum heading into New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Listening to Bachmann on the campaign trail, you'd be hard-pressed to know she's dead last in the polls, that key staffers have abandoned her campaign and that virtually every political insider has written off her prospects to win the GOP presidential nomination.
The polls that Bachmann once celebrated she now dismisses, and she's become increasingly frustrated with reporters' questions about her campaign's viability should she fail to post a strong finish in Tuesday's Iowa caucuses.
Bachmann is making the trip to the Waterloo area not only because she can talk to thousands of caucus-goers at once, but also to try to leverage her Iowa roots -- as she has since she began her campaign for president.
"I was born into a middle-class family here in Iowa," Bachmann reminded reporters Monday afternoon during a campaign stop in Des Moines. "I grew up in Iowa, and my experiences here also led me to understand how independent thinking Iowans are."
A couple hours to the northeast in Waterloo, there's a lot of activity in the cramped offices of the Black Hawk County Republican Party. They're getting ready for what could be a caucus turnout that's twice as large as it was four years ago.
"We helped project [Bachmann] into the forefront when she entered the race, because she is a Waterloo native and a Black Hawk County native," said Black Hawk County GOP Chairman "Mac" McDonald.
That help included a presence at Bachmann's Iowa kickoff party and her formal announcement in Waterloo last summer.
Even on Bachmann's self-described "home turf" of Iowa, she has lost a lot of ground.
"A month after she entered the race, I thought should would really have a hard time not winning Black Hawk County, but now I'm not sure," said McDonald. "I think other candidates have come on strong and have replaced her in that front-runner position."
McDonald said he thinks Bachmann got bad campaign advice, and that the image she tried to portray as a fighter fell short.
"She spearheaded the fight against Obamacare; well, she got defeated," McDonald said. "She spearheaded the fight against TARP; well, she got defeated. She didn't really come out with a plan, she came out with what's wrong, but not with a plan to set us straight."
McDonald thinks that if Bachmann ends up finishing at or near the bottom in Iowa, she will have a hard time garnering support in other states.
Scott Huffmon, a political scientist in South Carolina, agrees. Huffmon, of Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., calls Iowa "stunningly important" for Bachmann's South Carolina prospects.
"South Carolinans would look at her and say if she wasn't viable in her own backyard, in a place where she has spent a ton of time laying a lot of groundwork, then maybe we'll look to another candidate," said Huffmon.
Bachmann is scheduled to speak at Winthrop University on Wednesday.
Besides Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is also planning to head directly for South Carolina, rather than going to New Hampshire, which holds the nation's first presidential primary next week.
While so much of the focus has been on Iowa and will soon shift to New Hampshire, South Carolina is considered a must-win for Republican presidential candidates. Over the past 30 years, no Republican has secured the presidential nomination without first winning there.
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