The major Republican presidential candidates at the bottom of the pack – Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum – are going door-to-door in Iowa to give their sagging campaigns a boost. The question is whether that effort will have any success, and the answer is unclear, Politico
Unlike Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, the underdogs have arduous travel schedules for Iowa between now and the nation’s first caucuses/primary Jan. 3.
Texas Gov. Perry Wednesday begins a 44-city, eight-day bus tour, to be followed by a five-day run that will have him campaigning on New Year’s Eve. Not to be outdone, Minnesota Rep. Bachmann will visit all of Iowa’s 99 counties in a 10-day whirlwind tour.
The king of Iowa retail campaigning, former Pennsylvania Sen. Santorum, already touched down in all 99 counties by Nov. 2. That hasn’t done him much good in the polls: He hasn’t risen from single digits.
But Santorum thinks his day will come.
“People who are for someone today are for someone else in two weeks and someone else two weeks later,” he told Politico. “I think people are working themselves down the path. And the path is going to lead to the most consistent conservative, someone they can trust, someone who has taken the time to get to know them and answer their questions.”
Presumably he’s referring to himself.
The hope for the underdogs is that voters haven’t made up their minds. Indeed, a New York Times/CBS poll conducted last week showed that up to two-thirds of would-be caucus attendees haven’t made a decision yet.
The other issue is the importance of massive campaigning on the ground. Some veteran Iowa politicos say it’s essential.
“If you want to gather caucus night support, you’ve got to go ask for it in person,” Tim Albrecht, communications director for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, told Politico. “It’s a recognition that retail politicking still works in this state. It’s still the most effective means of securing support.”
But that view isn’t backed up by the polls. The candidates who have spent the most time in Iowa are faring the worst. And a new Public Policy Polling survey shows that only 22 percent of caucus-goers think it’s very important that a candidate “spent a lot of time in Iowa.” Two-thirds say it is either not important or only somewhat important.
Some Iowans say Perry and Bachmann are just grasping at straws and won’t be rewarded. “I think at this point, it’s a desperate move,” Kris Thiessen, the GOP chairwoman in Clay County in the state’s conservative northwest corner where few candidates have visited, told Politico.
“I can’t see it having much impact. They had their moment when they were the top people, and after people got more information and saw them in action, they decided that wasn’t the person they wanted to support,” said Thiessen, who supports Ron Paul.
Even Trudy Caviness, the Wapello County Republican chairwoman who does think retail campaigning is important, doesn’t see much hope for Perry or Bachmann. “I would guess that it’s too late for either one to win the caucus,” she told Politico.
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