Seven months before the first ballots will be cast for GOP presidential candidates in early states like Iowa and New Hampshire, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) finds herself on a streak in the latest polls. The Des Moines Register's last poll found Bachmann to be tied with frontrunner Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, local media sources have channeled the most recent poll from out of the UNH Survey Center to refer to her quick jump in the GOP field shortly after she announced her candidacy. I am sure the Bachmann campaign is seeing this as a blessing, but how will the increased attention to her candidacy affect her future? Will her streak stay alive all the way to the early states, or is she the next spike in name recognition for a candidate who can't go the distance? I'd argue Bachmann is the latter.
At the end of May, CNN and WMUR's NH Primary Poll had Michelle Bachmann with 4% behind Romney (32%), Ron Paul (8%), Giuliani (6%), and lead balloon candidate Newt Gingrich (6%). The Suffolk University and 7 News poll published June 28 found her trailing slightly further behind Romney, by 11% (though this poll included people not yet in the race like Rudy Giuliani, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, and George Pataki, while excluding announced candidates like Gary Johnson). The WMUR Granite State Poll, published July 5 showed an 8-point increase for Bachmann from last month up to 12%, still at a distant second behind Romney (35%).
Bachmann certainly has seen a surge in the last few weeks, but will it keep? Many GOP voters are reacting to these polls simply on name recognition, which sometimes can create a feedback loop this early in the season. I think this is especially apparent in Donald Trump's flare-up in late April and the constant dominance by Mitt Romney in New Hampshire polls. Romney has always had high numbers in New Hampshire and his campaign apparatus has kept since 2008, so he is sure to command high early numbers this cycle. Seeing as he was governor of a neighboring state and is a big fundraiser, it's hard for Republicans to go for anybody else but Romney these days, but this stage is still before most voters start to pay attention. The last Granite State Poll showed that 75% of likely Republican primary voters “are still trying to decide” on a candidate and only 8% have made a choice. There is a long campaign season ahead.
A number of GOP voters jumped on the Trump bandwagon for the three to four weeks it existed, giving the real estate billionaire 10% in WMUR's Granite State Poll, published May 4. This can be seen as a large chunk of Republican primary voters in New Hampshire shopping for candidates and reacting to big names in the field only to burn up a few weeks later. This will be Michele Bachmann's fate as I suspect her polling streak in New Hampshire will not last long. Voters have not seen much of the message and organizational styles of each candidates' campaigns yet, much less learned anything about them or their policies. Once the fall rolls around, the real players will find their stroke and we will see a race.
New Hampshire voters are reluctant to admit they've chosen a candidate this early. They're waiting to meet each of them a few times so they can decide.
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