From TIME Swampland:
Michele Bachmann is ambling through the aisles of a cramped meat locker in an industrial section of Des Moines. Massive sides of beef, weighing up to 950 lbs., hang from hooks near the ceiling and droplets of blood pool on the frigid floor. You can see your breath. Bundled in a blue coat, a string of pearls around her neck glittering in the low light, Bachmann trades small talk and gamely slices slabs of rib eye in the cutting room. “My grandfather owned a meat market in Iowa,” she tells the manager of the family-owned meatpacking plant, which has operated since 1869 and employs six workers. It is a perfectly scripted set piece for Bachmann, whose two-day swing through the Hawkeye State this week is designed to accentuate her blue-collar, Midwestern bona fides, her connection to Iowans and her commitment to the retail politicking it takes to win the state’s first-in-the-nation caucus this winter. When you want to win Iowa, this is the type of place you spend a drizzly Tuesday morning.
And all blue-collar Midwestern girls wear open-toed strappy high heels in cold and bloody meat lockers.
And Bachmann doesn’t just want to win Iowa. She has to. [...] A loss in her own wheelhouse would torpedo her candidacy.
Outside of Iowa, things aren’t going so well. Five weeks after a victory in the Ames Straw Poll capped an electric campaign launch, Bachmann is sliding badly. A new national USA Today/Gallup poll released on Tuesday saw Bachmann’s poll numbers plunge to 5%, far behind Rick Perry, at 31%, and Mitt Romney, who garnered 24%.
The Minnesota congresswoman has also been damaged by acidic appraisals from unpaid adviser Ed Rollins, who stepped down from his role as campaign manager earlier this month citing “fatigue.” On Monday, he suggested that Bachmann would struggle to weather the grueling slog of a 50-state campaign.
In the chill air of the meat locker, Bachmann shrugged off that argument, as well as her sagging poll numbers. “We saw another candidate emerge, and now of course that always changes the dynamic. But we’re doing exactly what we need to do,” she said.
Though her national campaign may be floundering, Iowa insiders say it would be a mistake to dismiss Bachmann. “She has the best combination of a conservative record and the organization she needs,” says Steve Deace, an influential conservative radio talk-show host in Des Moines. Four years ago, Deace’s incessant hammering helped derail the Romney campaign. This time, he’s dismayed by what he sees from Perry, whom Deace recently took to task for a 2008 letter that appears to encourage Congress to pass a bank bailout. “He’s not who we thought he was,” Deace says. Bachmann, he adds, must “deliver the necessary kill shot. If Rick Perry’s body is still smoldering, he will beat Michele Bachmann. She will have to finish him off.”
Oh, the rhetoric is lovely in Iowa.
Bachmann showed signs of adopting that strategy last week, when she blasted Perry over his immigration policy and the Gardasil vaccine mandate. But she went too far by parroting a myth about the vaccine’s side effects. The stubborn storyline that emerged wasn’t Perry’s adoption of a policy that is anathema to many conservatives; it was Bachmann’s tendency to fudge the facts. Bachmann may have the rhetorical kill shot in her, but her own candidacy could be the likeliest victim.