At the back of the pack, Bachmann soldiers on in Iowa

Republican presidential candidate MIchele Bachmann boards her bus after a stop in Corning, Iowa.

Story highlights

  • CNN poll: Bachmann second to last in Iowa
  • Her Iowa state campaign chairman defected to support Ron Paul
  • Bachmann has been criss-crossing Iowa trying to drum up support
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann weaved between tables at the Kay's Kafé in tiny Corning, Iowa, on Wednesday, interrupting patrons enjoying their "6 oz. Ribeye Steak Sandwich" (only $5) and pleading for the votes of conservatives just days before the Iowa caucuses.
But while she was shaking hands and autographing campaign flyers, her efforts in Iowa to secure the Republican presidential nomination appeared to be quickly fading.
Bachmann was hit with a one-two punch Wednesday when first she showed up in second-to-last place in the latest CNN/Time/ORC poll in Iowa, then her Iowa state campaign chairman Sen. Kent Sorenson suddenly defected to support Ron Paul, just hours after appearing at a campaign event with her.
Bachmann said Thursday that the poll numbers conflict with what she's experienced on her tour.
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"Well, what we're seeing is on the ground, and we will know what the final poll is on January 3, and what we're seeing is that half of Iowans are making their decisions."
And after lashing out at Sorenson in a statement on Wednesday, calling the defection a "sell-out," she said Thursday that her former state chairman was paid to go over to the Paul campaign.
"I had a conversation with Kent Sorenson and in the direct conversation that I had with him, he told me he was offered money. He was offered a lot of money by the Ron Paul campaign to go and associate with the Ron Paul campaign," she said at a tour stop in Battle. "No one else knows about that conversation other than Kent Sorenson and myself and I know what he said to me about that."
Sorenson on Thursday disputed Bachmann's account of the conversation and said he went over to the Paul camp because the Texas congressman represented the best chance of beating Mitt Romney for the nomination.
Paul was asked by reporters about the defection after an Iowa radio interview on Thursday but didn't answer.
But a close Bachmann confidant, Iowa political director Wes Enos, split with the candidate's statement and said that Sorenson's decision was "in no way financially motivated."
In the latest CNN/Time/ORC poll, Bachmann drew just 9% of support from likely Iowa caucus-goers, sixth out of the seven major Republican candidates. Only Jon Huntsman, who is not campaigning in Iowa and devoting all his resources to New Hampshire, ranked below her with 1%. Mitt Romney was at the top of the poll with 25%, Ron Paul in a close second at 22%, while Rick Santorum appeared to be surging to win third place with 16%. Newt Gingrich dropped 20 points to fourth place at 14%.
Michele Bachmann talks with retiree Connie Selders of Gravity, Iowa, at the Junction Cafe in Bedford.
Bachmann, like many of her opponents, has been criss-crossing the state trying to drum up support in the final days before the crucial Iowa caucuses. She is nearly finished with her 99 county bus tour, and stop No. 88 was the Junction Café in Bedford, Iowa, one of the state's smallest towns about two hours southwest of Des Moines.
Connie Selders, a retired Bedford Schools para-professional from neighboring Gravity, Iowa, was nibbling on her Cobb salad when Bachmann stopped by her table and gave her a hug.
"Hi, how ya doing today," said a beaming Bachmann, working the room. The two embraced as the candidate noticed the struggle in her eyes.
"We need jobs," Selders responded, "we need jobs."
Selders said tough times have hit the state hard, and she is looking for a candidate to lead the country back to prosperity.
"My husband lost his job at the water company. He was there for eight years," said the mother of four. "He's 50-some years old and no one really wants to hire him. So, how are we doing? We aren't."
Selders said she couldn't remember who she supported in 2008, but that it wasn't Barack Obama.
"I don't like the way the country has been going, I want something better," said Selders. "We're on the wrong track and we've gotta get back, or we're gonna be stuck here."
When asked if she'd support Bachmann this time around, she said hesitantly, "Yea, I guess. I would support her."
Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann greets patrons in the Junction Cafe in Bedford, Iowa on Wednesday.
Bachmann said she expects to finish the last four counties of her 99-county tour today, and sounded optimistic as she boarded her bus on Wednesday, Johnny Cash's "I've Been Everywhere" blaring from speakers.
"We need somebody who is gonna stand up to Barack Obama. We need somebody who is gonna stand up for us, who is gonna stand up for our values, and get the country back on the right track," she said.
But time is running out to convince Iowans that she is that person.