CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann braced for a possible loss Tuesday in the state where just months ago she won a test vote of Iowa Republicans.
An entrance poll of early arriving caucus-goers in Iowa suggests that she's not in the mix for a victory, with the race favoring three of her opponents: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
The survey by Edison Media Research for The Associated Press and television networks was based on interviews with more than 600 people arriving at nearly 40 precinct caucuses across the state.
Before the voting began, Bachmann traveled to the backyard of her childhood to make her final appeal for support, imploring voters in her native Iowa to "reclaim our country."
The campaign of the Minnesota congresswoman was adamant they would exceed expectations and not finish last.
Bachmann's mother joined her on stage Tuesday as the candidate's voice echoed through a cavernous college sports arena that serves as a caucus hub. Cities represented included her birthplace of Waterloo.
"Stand up, Iowa. Reclaim our country," she said. "Tonight we begin the process of taking it back."
Some Republicans came up to Bachmann to share stories of attending school with her or going to the same hangouts.
Mardell Lindberg, a 30-year resident of Waterloo, said Bachmann would get her vote.
"People from where you are from are like you," Lindberg said.
As Bachmann made her way around the arena, she shook hands and talked to voters about elementary school teachers they had in common. She touted herself as a "consistent conservative" while playing up her win in the Iowa GOP's summer straw poll.
"The same woman they voted for in the straw poll is the same woman I am tonight," she said.
But the caucus site was hardly unified. Bachmann would need more than hometown connections to pull back into contention.
"I feel sorry for her," said Randy Herod, a retired business consultant. "She's real nice, but this isn't her time."
Bachmann spent days before the big vote deflecting questions about her staying power. Her campaign team insisted she would press on to South Carolina, where Republicans have a Jan. 21 primary, no matter the caucus outcome.
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