Sarah Palin goes on the road as Bachmann tests the water

May 29, 2011
Linda Palermo

Sarah Palin makes ‘preemptive strike’ to dent Michele Bachmann’s presidential ambitions

Sarah Palin, the failed 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate, today launches a blitzkrieg along the Eastern Seaboard as she seeks to kickstart her campaign to headline the GOP's ticket in next year's race for the White House. The former Alaskan governor will hit Washington DC and the politically important state of New Hampshire during the tour.

The race has lost its initial frontrunners in recent weeks, with Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee both pulling out of contention. But Michele Bachmann, one of Palin's high-profile colleagues from the Tea Party wing of the Republicans, has been plotting her own challenge for 2012, announcing in recent days that she is setting up campaign teams across the states that hold early primaries next year.

"We already have a hired staff in Iowa, New Hampshire, in South Carolina," she told supporters in a video this week. "We have every aspect that we need in this effort." And the Minnesota congresswoman told Iowa Public Television on Friday that "I can tell, yes, I've had that calling [to run for president] and that tugging on my heart that this is the right thing to do."

Bachmann also signalled that there could be a battle royale brewing between her and Palin for the all-important Tea Party support in the race to come. "I think people want something new and different. They don't want anything that reflects the status quo or the establishment," Bachmann said. "I think the Tea Party movement has made that very clear, that they don't want Washington as usual."

But Palin's decision to raise her profile on the ground with a whistlestop tour is being seen as a shot across the bows of her rival. "I think she is trying to make a preemptive strike to maybe convince Bachmann not to run," said Dianne Bystrom, a political expert at Iowa State University.

Bystrom told Businessweek that if both women ran in next February's Iowa caucuses, the starting gun for the GOP presidential primary race, they could actually work against the interests of their socially and fiscally conservative voter base. "The more it is split by potential candidates, it would probably mean that neither of them would win the caucuses."

Indeed, a CNN poll released on Friday suggested that Palin and Bachman's support combined would see them sit atop the list of potential candidates to challenge president Barack Obama next year. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is yet to declare whether he will run, was first choice with 16 per cent, closely followed by Mitt Romney on 15 per cent.

Palin came in third with 13 per cent, while Bachman won a paltry seven per cent. Their combined support, at 20 per cent, would see one of them at the head of the field - but would either Palin or Bachmann pull out for the greater good of the Tea Party?

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