WATERLOO, Iowa – Rep. Michele Bachmann was born in this northern Iowa town, as she’s said about three million times. “I’m a real person,” she said onstage at the Electric Ballroom Sunday night. “I was raised here by real people who loved me and poured into me everything I needed to know.”
Presumably those lines, variations of which Bachmann repeats often, are meant to reassure Iowa voters and convince them that her rivals are bolt buckets, clanking robots, rather than human beings with home towns and personal values of their own.
In fact, she was late. She swept into and out of the Black Hawk County GOP Lincoln dinner like a Hollywood celebrity, waiting on her bus nearby until her campaign’s own lighting system, which featured soft white made-for-television spots, some of them strategically covered in flaw-softening gauze. No way did she just want to walk in, and risk bumping into new rival Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Bachmann signed a few t-shirts from the stage and then bolted from the room , surrounded by an entourage that would be the envy of many rappers. Crew-cut private security officers with radio receivers stuck in their ears kept the hoi polloi from rubbing up against her. In front of her bus outside, Bachmann held a press conference, calling on pre-selected reporters. She read their names from a paper as if she were a president holding court in the East Room of the White House.
“She’s ‘one of us,’ but she won’t come and eat with us?” said Judd Saul, a local tea party activist who helped to run the event. “I don’t think it’s Michele, it’s her campaign,” he said, hopefully.
Perry showed up an hour before he was scheduled to speak to the crowd of 300, and mingled with attendees, sitting down at tables for conversations. His Texas Ranger security detail was vigilant but flexible allowing people to post for pictures with Perry; reporters even got in a few questions.
When he was done speaking, Perry stayed to listen to Bachmann. He sipped water and occasionally applauded some of her lines. She did not acknowledge him, or former Sen. Rick Santorum, who had spoken and also remained in the room to listen to both speakers who followed him.
Iowans are generally polite, but plenty of people grumbled about what they considered Bachmann’s high-hat act.
One of the songs Bachmann uses in campaign events is Elvis’ “A Little Less Conversation.” The crowd Sunday night probably would have preferred less stagecraft and a little more conversation.