The Fallen: Lessons of Bachmann #1

Today we begin a series on the Fallen, those who have dropped out of the Presidential race, the things they did well and what we learned from the mistakes they made.

And we’ll start with Michelle Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty. Both from Minnesota, next door to Iowa, both seeking conservative support, and while they appealed to different factions of the Republican base, both knew it would be hard for two candidates from Minnesota to go the distance.

So what did Bachmann do? She announced that she’d go balls out in the Iowa Straw Poll held in August. And she goaded Pawlenty, a moderate Governor, into competing with her for the hearts and minds of those oh so conservative Iowans who attend the Straw Poll.

She put boots on the ground. She visited all 99 counties, did the kind of retail politicking required to win the Straw Poll and offered conservative Iowans red meat rhetoric that Pawlenty refused to utter.

As Bachmann worked Iowa, Pawlenty tried to run a national campaign and as a result could not match Bachmann’s retail effort. And he made another mistake as well—he drained his meager bank account trying to win a race he could not.

Bachmann won. Pawlenty finished a distant third and by then dead broke, dropped out of the race.

It is the same kind of tactic Pat Buchanan used in 1996 when he out hustled Phil Gramm in the Louisiana caucuses, forcing Gramm’s early exit from the Presidential contest.

What lesson can be learned? In the early stages of a primary process, you want to eliminate those who share your geographic and ideological base. One of the ways to do that is what we call guerrilla warfare, forcing your opponent to engage in battles where you have a natural advantage, winning early grass roots support, key endorsements and Straw Polls. And by goading your better funded opponents into contests they can’t win that drain their campaign accounts.

Political consultant Jay Townsend works with smart, passionate candidates who want to run for office, win elections and make a difference. He has successfully helped candidates learn how to run for the U.S. Senate, how to run for Congress, how to run for Mayor and develop a winning campaign marketing strategy.

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