NEVADA, Iowa (AP) — Encountering small crowds and fresh viability questions, Republican Michele Bachmann slogged into the final weekend of Iowa caucus campaigning Friday looking for any spark to her flagging bid.

The closing week hasn’t been kind to the one-time GOP contender: She’s losing staff. She’s faced calls to abandon her bid. And she has no money.

The difficulties were evident in two restaurant stops where reporters outnumbered patrons.

“Our effort wasn’t to bring crowds out. We were just dropping in,” she said outside a café in Early.

The Minnesota congresswoman is at the back of the pack in polls. But she vows to soldier on, even if that means her candidacy will split the vote of pivotal conservatives in Iowa and allow for victories by a candidate who isn’t seen as adhering as strongly to GOP orthodoxy — like Mitt Romney or Ron Paul.

Regarded as a tea party heroine, the only woman in the Republican race has struggled to revive her campaign since her standing dropped shortly after she won a statewide test vote in Iowa. That turned out to be the high point of her campaign.

Iowa Rep. Steve King, one of Bachmann’s closest allies in Congress, came to one of Friday’s events. He praised her but he stopped short of an outright endorsement in a race that’s so far kept him neutral.

“I have not made a commitment on this presidential race but I’ve made a commitment to this great friend to always be this great friend,” King said of Bachmann.

She’s spent the final week before Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses on a bus tour of the state’s 99 counties. Sometimes the crowds barely registered double digits; in other places they spilled out the doors.

But instead of ending the exhausting sprint on a high note, Bachmann found herself facing a new reality: Rick Santorum was the conservative candidate whose standing was rising ahead of the caucuses, not her.

She also found herself feuding with high-level advisers, only the latest to abandon her.

Two top Iowa advisers left the campaign on successive days this week, with her state chairman, Kent Sorenson, quitting and then going so far as to endorse Paul within hours of campaigning with her. A day later, Wes Enos said he was leaving his job as Bachmann’s political director.

Furious, Bachmann spent much of Thursday accusing Sorenson of switching allegiances for money. He denied it. But the candidate found herself in a daylong spat rather than hammering home her closing message to voters.

To some, it was another sign of a campaign in free-fall.

“If you can’t get your campaign on one page, it’s really hard to think you’re going to get a country on one page. The timing is horrible,” said veteran Iowa Republican strategist David Roederer, who is unaffiliated in this year’s race but held top Iowa posts in John McCain’s 2008 campaign and George W. Bush’s 2000 bid.

By Friday, she deflected questions on the subject and signaled she was ready to move on.

Still, it didn’t help that the departures came on top of calls by some Iowa pastors that either she or Santorum leave the race so evangelical voters can consolidate their support and block a victory by Romney or Paul. She quickly rejected the plea.

Brad Cranston, a pastor from Burlington who originally liked the idea of a merged campaign, said he’s given up on that prospect and will stick with Bachmann. So will Pastor Bill Tvedt of Oskaloosa, even if he knows her chances of winning have taken a hit.

“Maybe she is out of the running at this point,” Tvedt said. “I think she can come back. To bail out on the basis of electability is self-defeating to the process.”

But even if she stays in the race through Tuesday, it’s doubtful she could sustain a campaign beyond that.

Despite her reputation as a prolific fundraiser, she’s virtually out of money. Bachmann didn’t air a single TV ad in December and won’t broadcast one until the day before the caucuses.

Instead, she’s rolling out Internet videos, like the one she filmed this week that cast her as the “Iron Lady” of the 21st century.

And she’s urging Republicans on the fence to ignore her stagnant or slipping poll numbers — and Santorum’s rise.

It’s unclear whether she’s having any luck.

Recent college graduate Adam Fischer sized up Bachmann in central Iowa and liked her solidly conservative voting record, but he said he may still opt for Santorum.

“I don’t want to become subject to that poll mentality because that’s what gets us weak candidates,” Fischer said. Then he acknowledged that the one with the head of steam come Tuesday will probably get his vote.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (15)
  1. orrest says:

    I don’t want to become subject to that poll mentality because that’s what gets us weak candidates
    Reason offered why he was supporting Bachman. Nobody sane wants the job, that is why you have weak candidates. Power trippers and a crazy lady. This bunch will not solve any problems other than to line the pocketss of theirr pals

  2. The Crux of the Buscuit says:

    Lets see if her constituents are stupid enough to re-elect her to the house.

  3. Brett says:

    In my opinion, it seems like she is not campaigning for the Presidency anymore OR the House. It looks like she’s trying to get as much exposure as possible for maybe a cabinet position (although this doesn’t seem likely after her negative comments towards other republicans) or another book / TV appearances. Does anyone else agree?

    1. Sister Sarah says:

      She’s following Palin’s lead. Grifting is so much easier the way Sarah does it.

  4. Tea Partier says:

    I used to like her until she started to get desperate and spread lies about Ron Paul. She’s supposed to be a Christian and she’s been lying something terrible these last few days.

    Drop out Michele, apologize to Ron paul and ask your supporters to follow Dr Paul to the White House.
    This is your chance to show class, don’t blow it

    1. insignificant says:

      yepperoo,tea partier…we know all about them lies she spewed out

  5. helpermonkey says:

    I wonder if she’ll credit her Lord and Savior for contributing to her catastrophic defeat. Do the “two finger point to the sky” as she boards the bus to leave Iowa?

  6. Destitute in Des Moines says:

    Her aged, wrinkled white Tea Party overlords, alarmed at the precipitious fall of their doleful, bovine-eyed high priestess, are scrambling to determine What Went Wrong.

    But wait-look at the calendar,it’s 2011, not 1980-and yes, there is an African American in the White House, not Ronald Reagan.

    1. Opinionated in Minnesota says:

      what a pig and a racist. you are part of the problem and the continued idiocy that prevails in this country. Race has nothing to do with this. I wish people like you were sterilized so America had some brains and use their energy for decent things and not pointing fingers at who did this hundreds of years ago, oppression blah blah blah. Wake up, there are more important issues outside of race. That should be the last thing anyone has issues with.

      1. Oh yeah says:

        That silly race thing is so obviously behind us. No such thing any more, especially in this State. We’re all so NICE here, huh.

  7. michele 4ever says:

    I was hoping to help Marcus shop for his inaugual dresses. C’mon Michele, get the lead out. You know he can accessorize – he’s so gay!

    1. you know what i mean says:

      ….and while he’s doing that, I’ll be teaching Michelle how to do a proper “turkey call”, you know….gluck,gluck,gluck,gluck…*pat on the head*….good girl!

  8. Little Tin God says:

    Bachmann is toast! Even Iowans figured out she’s a total flake and distorts the truth so much it’s unrecognizable.

  9. Crazy is as ... says:

    While I am not a fan of this beetch in any manner I am somewhat on-board with the TP folks.
    That said – she is setting back the cause, the image and the whole damn thing 50 years with her bs and half-facts and truths.
    She truly needs to disapear from politics in any capacity as she is making a laughing stock of all.
    If she could be sent to service the Iraqi Army in some way (lol) we all would be better off

  10. Political Romance Novel? says:

    “Encountering small crowds and fresh viability questions, Republican Michele Bachmann slogged into the final weekend of Iowa caucus campaigning Friday looking for any spark to her flagging bid.”

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