With Cain dropping out of the GOP race and Bachmann surging in the Iowa polling, maybe it's time for a second look. Bachmann has certainly been consistent in her conservative principles throughout the race, out-performing Gingrich, Perry, and even Cain in that regard. So where did her support disappear to in the first place?
The obvious answer is that she peaked to soon. Before Perry launched his campaign, on the eve of her straw poll win, Bachmann looked pretty strong (politically). But Perry effectively deflated that before imploding himself. When Perry started to fall apart, the momentum shifted from him to Cain instead of back to Bachmann. That's because he had an effective slogan and beat that drum at every turn, while Bachmann was effective on her points, she wasn't limiting herself to clear, simple, memorable sound bites. Given the diminished window she had in debates, she wasn't taking maximum advantage of her limited opportunity to re-emerge.
Meanwhile Newt Gingrich was very effectively doing just that and experiencing a soft surge of his own. After Cain started to falter, the momentum inevitably shifted to Newt. Now that Cain has abandon his campaign, there is room for Bachmann to try to pick up some of his remaining support. The Iowa polling shows that she may have developed some momentum before the Cain announcement happened.
The conventional wisdom is that the race needs a not Romney and voters have flirted with all the viable not-Romneys in the field, seeming to settle on Newt.
While Bachmann deserves a second look she may not have time or opportunity to get it. Gingrich seems to be consolidating his lead of late, in poll after poll.
Another consideration is electability. That's the knock on every candidate in the race, even Romney. Defeating Obama is going to come down to electability more than ideology. Everyone in the race is to the right of Obama, and most considerably so. But winning the general election requires the candidate be able to defeat King O.
That comes down to winning over independent voters, having charisma, and having debating chops. Bachmann is hard pressed on all three. Independents need some tempering of conservative principles, she is a solid conservative with a solid conservative message - they may be hesitant to embrace that. She has charisma, but she can be negative at times, and her charisma is also rooted in the conservative base. Winning over skeptics has not (yet) been her strong suit. That's the type of charisma she needs - an ability to appeal beyond her core constituency. Thirdly, she has not maximized her debate potential and she has to be able to do that. The press will be pressing for Obama. He will have a funding advantage and therefore a messaging advantage, not to mention incumbency. They only way to counter those home field advantages is to stomp him in the eventual head to head debates. She has sound bites that are unexciting not to mention very broad in nature. That's not a winning formula.
Gingrich on the other hand has some ability to create broad appeal (at least it seems so for now) and certainly has his debate chops. That he isn't a perfect conservative is apparently being trumped by his ability to win in 2012.
I'm sure some more support will drift back to Bachmann, but I don't think it will be enough for a second surge of significant value. She'd make a good president but I don't think she's ready to be a good, fully rounded candidate yet.