ORLANDO - Michele Bachmann has been in Florida for the past two days, but she's made it clear to everybody that she's got Iowa on her mind.
On the ropes as a presidential contender polling in the mid-single digits, the Minnesota Republican is redoubling her efforts to stay strong in Iowa, where she won the GOP straw poll in Ames last month.
"We said that all along," said Bachmann campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart, speaking to reporters in the spin room after Thursday night's Florida GOP debate.
"We got in this race late, and we put all of our manpower and resources into winning or competing in the straw poll, and we did," Stewart said. "We exceeded our expectations, and from there we're going to do what we've said all along: We're going to focus a lot of attention on Iowa." Bachmann heads Monday to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
There's a certain clarity to Bachmann's Iowa-centric strategy, especially seen from Florida, a big media market state that couldn't be more different from the Corn Belt's small-town, one-on-one retail brand of politics.
"I don't think she's got it," said long-time political activist Alan Freeman, who sported a Rick Perry skull cap at this week's Florida GOP/American Conservative Union confab. "There's a certain image you've got to have," said Freeman, discounting Bachmann for not looking or sounding presidential enough.
Miami native Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union, said it costs at least $5 million to compete statewide in Florida, and that so far only Mitt Romney and Perry, the two frontrunners, have been dedicating significant resources in the state.
While the Bachmann campaign has claimed to be building a fundraising organization in the Sunshine State, campaign manager Keith Nahigian conceded it's not a central focus right now.
"It's one state at a time," Nahigian said. "Normally, you don't compete in Florida until you have to compete in Florida, because it's a media-market state, not a grass-roots state."
But sooner or later everybody who seriously wants to be president has to compete in Florida because, as Al Gore can attest, as Florida goes, so goes the nation (at least in the past four elections).
For now, Bachmann is building her campaign coffers back up from the estimated $1.5 million spent to win the Ames straw poll.
"We're making up for quite a lot of expenditures that no other campaign had in terms of going after the straw poll," Nahigian said.
That won't be the case in Florida, where Bachmann addressed convention-goers but made no serious effort to win Saturday's straw poll in Orlando.
Tweet of the week"Debates only good for cable ratings. They are getting worse and worse. Sheesh." @repmattdean • State House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood.
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