The Washington Times - September 23, 2011, 11:41AM

Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican, appears to be fading into the GOP primary background at the moment and her debate performance in Orlando did not seem as if it would improve her status in the polls right now. Gallup currently has her at 5 percent, in fourth place, eight points behind Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican. Her team, campaign manager Keith Nahigian and spokeswoman Alice Stewart argue, though, that the race is still early and the campaign believes the race is only about Iowa right now. 

“If Perry loses Iowa and loses New Hampshire and loses South Carolina, he’s out or loses Iowa and loses New Hampshire, he’s out. So you have to win Iowa,” said Mr. Nahigian. He noted, “That’s why everybody needs to focus there. We’re flying around the whole country doing stuff and if you’re not focusing on where the train starts, you’re out.”

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Though former Bachmann campaign manager Ed Rollins was previously misquoted by a number of outlets for saying the Minnesota Republican couldn’t compete past Iowa, when in fact, he told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that unless she wins Iowa, Bachmann doesn’t have the ability or the resources to contend. Although Rollins is no longer formerly with the Bachmann campaign, Mr. Nahigian insists he is on the phone everyday with Mr. Rollins still.

Are there two contests going on in the primary here, though? Many will point to the two frontrunners Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as the main event, while the other lower polling candidates are in a more subtle contest over who will be the final one standing between the two front runners, sometimes know as the “thorn” who can cause problems for one of the final two towards the end of the primary. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee became this element of the GOP presidential primary in 2008.

Stewart, who also worked on the 2008 Huckabee campaign, not surprisingly disagrees with Bachamann being thought of this way. “You’re not a thorn in anyone’s side when you’re simply showing the contrast between the candidates which is exactly what everyone is doing out there. You’re showing the contrast,” she told me. 

Stewart added, “She doesn’t believe that cronyism is the way to operate, whether you’re in the state house or the White House.  She doesn’t believe that you should exceed your government power-your executive power-by issuing a mandate to 12 year old girls to receive vaccines.” 

Fundraising is key in keeping Bachmann in primary through Iowa. Congresswoman Bachamann is known in Minnesota and D.C. as a powerhouse fundraiser. However, she is up against other campaigners who have their own huge donor base and personal wealth. 

“Fundraising has been pretty consistent. We’ve been focusing on that,” Nahigian said. “We’ve been making up for quite a lot of expenditures that no other campaign had in terms of going after the straw poll. We’re building our different levels of donors, but our internet and our mail…it works very consistently all the time.

As of now, the Bachmann campaign has not been talking much about high profile endorsements. Nahigian blew off the endorsements mentioned to him that other candidates recently received. “It’s hokey. People don’t care about that stuff,” Nahigian told reporters.

“Have you ever voted for a candidate because this candidate who just lost [said you should?] McCotter? Was that going to change your view on who to support for president?”

Nahigian believes that endorsements are not that important saying, “It’s not something you do to win Iowa and New Hampshire. You don’t walk up with Congress people. Most of them are not getting in the game yet. It doesn’t really do anything from the state you’re running in this early.”As far as talk about Bachmann only running to build up her name identification and political prominence within Nahigian responded, “She’s only running because she has the best qualifications to be president and she’s in it to win it.”