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Michele Bachmann's Iowa Roots Unlikely To Offer Boost In Caucus

Bachmann Iowa Handshake

First Posted: 07/26/11 01:12 PM ET Updated: 09/25/11 06:12 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- When Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) announced her candidacy for president in her birthplace of Waterloo, Iowa, she played up her connection to the small city, using the words Iowa, Iowans or Waterloo more than two dozen times. She had also stressed her Iowa roots months before, during a speech in Des Moines, Iowa.

But while Bachmann's quest to be seen as a native of the Hawkeye State has been a topic of conversation among both voters and pundits, it's unlikely to be a major factor in helping her win the support of most Iowans.

"She was born here -- now that why makes a difference, that mystifies me," said Kevin McLaughlin, a stock broker in Des Moines and the chairman of the Polk County Republican Party. "People talk about she was born here. She makes a big issue of it, because apparently it does make a difference, and I don't understand why."

Other Iowa Republicans and political experts told The Huffington Post that where a candidate is from will not heavily influence Iowa caucus-goers, downplaying the potential for Bachmann to capitalize on her geographic background.

"I think authenticity and principles are going to win the day, not where you're from or how close you lived to the state or whether you're born in the state," said Jason Hamann of Everyday America, a conservative group started by former Iowa GOP officials.

McLaughlin said he is publicly neutral in the primary and is still undecided in the upcoming Ames straw poll on Aug. 13. Hamann similarly said his group is undecided on whom it might support.

If Bachmann were elected president, she would be the first person born in Iowa to be elected to the office since Republican Herbert Hoover in 1928.

The last presidential candidate from Iowa was Tom Vilsack in 2007, fresh off two terms as Iowa's Democratic governor. However, despite being the first official candidate to enter the race, he was also the first to call it quits.

In 1992, Iowa's Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin ran while in office, rendering the Iowa caucuses moot as other candidates skipped the state altogether.

Bachmann could potentially over-play her Iowa roots, cautioned Christopher Larimer, associate professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa. If she spends too much energy emphasizing Iowa as her second home state, she would then be expected to win the caucuses to be seen as viable.

"She could be seen as the favorite daughter," said Larimer, who studies voting behavior and attitudes towards politicians. "She's taking a big risk in building up expectations."

Iowa state Rep. Josh Byrnes (R-Osage) said it's almost "shallow" to assume a candidate has an advantage or based on where he or she is from.

"It's a good card to play, I guess if I was running for president I'd use it. But I don't know if it's necessarily the winning card," Byrnes said.

While the roots card could attract attention initially, its longterm effect would be fleeting. Some Iowans also pointed out Bachmann has already drawn greater attention to her birthplace than she perhaps intended because of her gaffe mixing up actor John Wayne and serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

Bachmann also faces the fact that Iowa is one of only two states in the country to have never elected a woman to Congress or the governor's office.

So far, many Republicans in the state have been hesitant to get behind any of the candidates who have announced their campaigns.

"There's just a lot of indecisiveness, no one's really puling the trigger," Byrnes said. "We're all just kind of sitting back and watching and observing."

Jon Ward contributed to this report.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story asserted Bachmann was the first woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Minnesota. Coya Knutson was the first female representative from Minnesota. Bachmann is the is the first Republican woman to represent the state in Congress.
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