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Bachmann, Perry share billing but avoid each other

A day after Michele Bachmann won the Ames straw poll and Rick Perry joined the 2012 presidential race, the rising GOP stars appeared at a fundraising event but did not acknowledge one another.
/ Source: NBC, msnbc.com and news services

One day after Michele Bachmann won the Ames straw poll and Rick Perry joined the 2012 presidential race, the two rising GOP stars appeared at a fundraising event Sunday night.

But the event caught observers' attention as much for what the two — who failed to acknowledge each other's presence despite being a table-length apart — did not say as what they did.

Bachmann and Perry, along with former Pennsylvania Gov. Rick Santorum, attended the Black Hawk County GOP's Lincoln Day dinner in Waterloo — Bachmann's hometown — where they told activists that they have credibility on the party's leading priority: jobs.

Fresh off her win in the closely watched test vote, Bachmann portrayed herself as a mainstream Midwesterner. Newcomer Perry introduced himself as a common-sense executive focused on jobs.

Perry, the Texas governor, was mobbed by dozens of reporters for his first appearance as a candidate in the leadoff caucus state. In his remarks, he made no reference to Bachmann.

WATERLOO, IA - AUGUST 14: Republican presidential candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry addresses the Blackhawk County Republican annual Lincoln Day Dinner at the Electric Park Ballroom August 14, 2011 in Waterloo, Iowa. Perry is in Iowa after announcing his candidacy for president a day earlier. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images North America

“We are in economic turmoil,” Perry said, according to The New York Times. “And if we don’t have a president of the United States who gets the country working again we are in trouble.”

Bachmann, a Minnesota congresswoman, waited on her campaign bus in the ballroom parking lot while Perry spoke at the fundraiser, and entered the hall to her trademark introduction theme, Elvis Presley's version of "Promised Land."

“Yesterday, together, we sent that message to Washington, didn’t we,” she said, according to The New York Times. “We sent a message to Washington that Barack Obama’s time is extremely limited and that 2012 can’t come soon enough.”

But the appearance served to underscore significant stylistic differences between the candidates.

The Texan arrived about 90 minutes before he was scheduled to speak and listened as local Republican activists and an Abraham Lincoln impersonator delivered speeches. Perry shook hands, posed for pictures and signed autographs with party activists, according to Politico.

But Bachmann did not enter the venue until she had been assured by a campaign staffer that the lighting had been changed, NBC News' Jamie Novogrod reported. The stage was dramatically brighter following the change from the Perry campaign’s Tungsten lights to Bachmann’s HMI lights, witnesses said.

After she was finished speaking, Bachmann signed autographs from the stage, Politico said.

The website reported that neither candidate made reference to one another in their respective speeches, nor did they engage with one another on the floor of the venue.

WATERLOO, IA - AUGUST 14: Republican presidential candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry (C) waits for fellow candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) to take the stage during the Blackhawk County Republican annual Lincoln Day Dinner at the Electric Park Ballroom August 14, 2011 in Waterloo, Iowa. Fresh off of her win in the Iowa Straw Poll, Bachmann addressed her hometown crowd after Perry did so earlier in the evening. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images North America

The music sound level was also raised for Bachmann’s entrance and exit, which irked one of the event organizers.

"We had a couple speakers scheduled to speak after her, and we were going to do our big ask for our fundraiser, but as soon as she was done, the music blasted up, she started signing autographs, and … people just started leaving," the organizer, a GOP official who was not named, told NBC News.

"So two speakers missed their chance to speak, and we missed our (chance) to ask the Republicans here for our fundraising — extra money that we needed to carry for the caucus," the organizer added.

'Like she was Madonna or something'
The contrast did not go unnoticed by local Republican activists, who traditionally value having direct contact with the candidates in their no-frills state contests.

"She didn't sit down to visit with us and eat with us," attendee Mel Shaw, 57, told the U.K.'s Telegraph newspaper. "She came into the room like she was Madonna or something, a big star appearing before all us little people. She didn't want to answer questions. That's not the way we do politics here."

A segment of the GOP's establishment and economic conservatives have sat on the sidelines in the early months of the race, waiting for an alternative to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Support for Romney, positioning himself as the Republican most associated with job creation, has been muted in some parts of the GOP primary electorate.

After Sunday’s event in Waterloo, Perry’s campaign declined to say when he would attempt to engage directly with either Bachmann or Romney in an effort to draw contrasts between them.

“The governor is going to focus on his vision for the country and his record,” The New York Times quoted campaign spokesman Mark Miner as saying.

“He’s going to focus on what his vision is to get America working again,” Miner told the paper.

Bachmann, speaking to reporters after her speech in Waterloo, said that she had not interacted with Perry because of a busy day that included a family visit in the town.

“We welcome Governor Perry to the race,” she said.

In the 24 hours between Perry's announcement in Charleston, S.C., and his arrival in Iowa, the ground had shifted profoundly.

Bachmann beat her home-state rival Tim Pawlenty by more than 2-to-1 in the Iowa straw poll, an early test of caucus campaign strength. Pawlenty, a former two-term Minnesota governor, had put all his chips on a strong showing in the poll. But his distant third-place finish, behind Texas Rep. Ron Paul, prompted Pawlenty to quit the race Sunday morning.

Bachmann, on the other hand, rose sharply to the top of Iowa polls since launching her campaign in June, and made an aggressive push for straw poll support with evangelical pastors and Christian home-school backers.