Back on a previous thread, Bud said “Perry and Bachmann are duking it out for the evangelical, tea party vote…”
But the contrast that may lift Perry, and undermine Bachmann, in their high-stakes battle for Iowa had less to do with what they said than how they said it — and what they did before and after speaking.
Perry arrived early, as did former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. The Texas governor let a media throng grow and dissolve before working his way across the room to sit at table after table, shake hand after hand, pose for photographs and listen politely to a windy Abraham Lincoln impersonator, paying respect to a state that expects candidates, no matter their fame, to be accessible.
But Bachmann campaigned like a celebrity. And the event highlighted the brittle, presidential-style cocoon that has become her campaign’s signature: a routine of late entries, unexplained absences, quick exits, sharp-elbowed handlers with matching lapel pins, and pre-selected questioners.
She camped out in her bus, parked on the street in front of a nearby Ramada Hotel, until it was time to take the stage. Even after a local official’s introduction, Bachmann was nowhere to be found. It was not until a second staffer assured her that the lighting had been changed and a second introduction piped over the loudspeakers that she entered the former dance hall here. By the time she made her big entrance to bright lights and blaring music, the crowd seemed puzzled….
What the writer is trying to describe there is something I’ve seen over and over in campaigns over the years. Sometimes a certain rhythm, a certain tone, a certain something that is hard to put in words develops that tells you one candidate is a winner while the other is descending into loserdom, even if she was the flavor of the week the week before.
Perry is the genuine phenom. He’s got the patter. He could be a carnival barker or a televangelist. He’s the Christian Right candidate from central casting, and the only actual governor running with Mark Sanford-type credentials on the Tea Party uber-libertarian shtick. Take a look at this picture. I ask you. He’s everything Andy Griffith was in “A Face in the Crowd,” only without the folksiness and the self-destructive tendencies.
By comparison, Bachmann is a walking wreck waiting to happen. She’s got jack to show in the area of accomplishments, and she’s got that crazy look in the eyes. The one Newsweek committed the unpardonable sin of capturing accurately. And now, people are starting to notice the way she let the celebrity she attained before Perry got in go to her head.
Up against the real thing — or someone who at least could play the real thing on TV (just as Dennis Haysbert was perfect as the Obama prototype, the First Technically Black President, on “24”) — Bachmann will melt like a typical freakish dusting of snow in Columbia.
I say that with the usual caveat — “as long as current patterns continue.” Things can change just as rapidly as they just did for Ms. Bachmann. But until something comes along that takes Perry out, there seems to be little Ms. Bachmann can do to improve her own fortunes.