Bachmann surprises restaurant owner

2011-07-02T19:25:00Z 2011-07-03T14:03:21Z Bachmann surprises restaurant ownerJames Malewitz, The Gazette The Quad-City Times
July 02, 2011 7:25 pm  • 

IOWA CITY - There's generally little surprising about a political robocall, especially in the lead-up to caucus time in Iowa.

But when Tommy Connolly picked up his telephone Friday and the recorded voice of Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann said she would kick off her six-city Iowa tour Saturday at The Bluebird Diner, he was shocked.

Connolly owns The Bluebird, and, after spending a few days away from the restaurant, the call was the first he had heard of the Minnesota congresswoman's visit.

"It was not an unpleasant surprise," Connolly said about 8:15 a.m. Saturday as he readied a table for Bachmann, her husband, Marcus, and daughter Sophia, 17. But a moment later, a grinning he said it was "terrifying."

His cozy diner was packed with more than 80 people and what seemed like almost as many cameras.

Though Bachmann stayed at the restaurant for well over an hour after her large blue bus arrived about 20 minutes late, she barely had time to touch her strawberry-covered Belgian waffle, or talk politics, before heading north to the Cedar Rapids farmers market.

Bachmann spent most of her time at the Iowa City stop greeting supporters with long-lasting handshakes, signing autographs and making small talk, much of it about Iowa and its role in the political process.

"I think Iowa's very important. We want to do very well here, so we're going to be working toward the caucuses that are coming up in August, and on to January and February, and beyond," said Bachmann, who formally announced her candidacy only four days ago in Waterloo, where she lived until she was 12 years old.

"It's so wonderful to be back home in Iowa," she said.

"We need your help at the straw poll," she told a supporter, referring to the event Aug. 13 at Iowa State University in Ames.

Bachmann - who also is scheduled to visit Marshalltown, Carroll, Des Moines, LeMars and Clear Lake during her weekend bus trip - should have little trouble courting the vote of Connie Nolan of Iowa City.

Nolan was one of many at the Bluebird who said she admires Bachmann's staunch fiscal conservatism, Christianity and willingness to speak her mind.

"I admire her gumption and the way she stands up for the Constitution and that she's a strong Christian," Nolan added.

Bachmann has been prone to hyperbole and the occasional misstatement of facts.

In announcing her candidacy in Waterloo, she referred to it as the birthplace of Hollywood legend John Wayne, whose hometown is actually Winterset, Iowa.

But Carol Neel of Coralville and Nolan said such slip-ups don't bother them.

"I just think she's not getting all the facts," Neel said. That problem will be fixed, she added, "once Bachmann gets the right team around her." It's not Bachmann's off-the-cuff remarks that matter, Neel added, but her ability to sit down and analyze policy.

Bob Anderson, the chairman of the Johnson County Republicans, said Bachmann might face more media scrutiny than other candidates.

"I think there's an extra focus on her because she's a conservative, Republican woman," he said.

Anderson said he cannot take sides in the Republican race until the caucuses are over, but he described her as a "very viable candidate."

Bachmann never exited campaign mode during the visit. When her table's drinks arrived, she, with several cameras in her face, proposed a toast to Iowa.

"It's great to be a Hawkeye," she said.

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