AMES, Iowa -- Michele Bachmann went into this thing as the frontrunner. Her tour in the run-up to Ames was a Hollywood-level production, literally, with grips on hand who'd worked on the last Transformers movie. Her entire operation at Ames was calculated to present her as a serious candidate, someone you -- by which I mean "Iowa Republicans who have some worries about electing candidates who can beat Obama" -- can imagine as president.
This reached its natural conclusion right before voting ended today. Bachmann, her husband Marcus, and the rest of her family stood on a stage in the center of her tent. The tent itself had been partially opened up to allow hundreds more people to listen to her. She gave the high-concretrate version of her stump speech, and when she finished, a series of confetti cannons shot their contents across the room.
"We're going to get in a golf cart," said Bachmann, "and if you haven't voted yet, follow us to the polls!"
The crowd surged in multiple directions, and an army of cameramen lurched with Bachmann over to a caravan of three golf carts. She and Marcus sat in the middle cart, smiling and thanking voters.
"You voted?" asked Marcus, pointing to a voter. An ink-stained thumb point back at him. "Good! You voted? Good! Thanks!"
The Bachmanns rode the short distance to the polls, mobbed by cameras and trailed by people wearing orange Bachmann Volunteer shirts. When they stopped, though, they didn't seem to be marshalling votes. As Michele gave signatures and posed for photos, Marcus waved a pack of tickets and asked passersby to vote for his wife.
Some voters, thrilled by the sight of the Bachmanns, simply stood there and gawked. Karen Weig held a ticket for her friend, Connie, who was about to vote for Bachmann but decided to chase the cart instead.
"I don't see her," shrugged Weig. "When do the polls close?"
The polls were about to close when she said that. The Bachmanns sped away in their carts, to let voters back in, and cameramen and volunteers pumped their legs to catch up. All that was missing from that scene was "Yakety Sax."