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2012: Bachmann's emotional connection

BACHMANN: The Wall Street Journal profiles Bachmann, and it explains her appeal to conservatives this way: “She makes an emotional connection with her audience.” From the article’s lead: “On a recent stop here, she took off her bracelet, dangled it before the infant and cradled him while he teethed on the pearls. During another campaign appearance, Ms. Bachmann climbed down from the stage to take the hands of a woman who asked a question, holding them as she answered. Meeting a teenager with Down syndrome, the Minnesota congresswoman swept him up in a hug, then signed his T-shirt.”

CAIN: National Review Online writes that Herman Cain’s campaign style, which has been well received at events and in straw poll results so far, will be tested at the biggest straw poll of them all in Ames, Iowa: “Cain is currently slated to be the last candidate giving a speech at Ames, but attendees are free to cast their vote hours before Cain speaks. For the candidate whose golden tongue has been key to straw-poll triumphs, that last-place slot could hurt his ability to sway attendees’ minds.”

Speaking at a forum sponsored by the Greater Des Moines Partnership yesterday, “Herman Cain seemed to raise the bar Thursday for his performance in the Iowa Republican straw poll, saying he needs a top-three finish in the Aug. 13 event,” the Des Moines Register writes. “However, the presidential candidate added later that failure to reach that wouldn’t drive him out of the race.”

GINGRICH: End of the road? Gingrich said this on FOX, per GOP 12 about his chances in Ames: "We decided we have relatively scarce resources. Several people are going to spend several million dollars trying to win this. I wish them well. We'll do as well as we do, whatever that means."

PAWLENTY: On Hannity last night, Pawlenty again didn’t go all in on confronting an opponent when given the chance. The FOX host asked Pawlenty about the back and forth that's been going on between him and Bachmann and Pawlenty pretty much bypassed the question saying, per NBC’s Lauren Selsky. "Well, we've had a couple of back and forth. I don’t know that people are interested in the back and forth as they are the country's in big trouble, " Pawlenty said.

He set his expectations for Ames on FOX last night, per GOP 12: "I think it's the kickoff to the formal campaign season. There's a lot of preseason warmups, but this is going to be the start of the formal season, and I think we're going to do very well. I'm confident of that. .... We're going to continue to get good momentum, and I think you're going to see the first step of that in the straw poll next week."

“GOP White House hopeful Tim Pawlenty said this week that most or all climate change stems from natural causes,” The Hill reports. “The statement puts the former Minnesota governor at odds with GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, who believes climate change is occurring and that humans have contributed.”

PERRY: “Civil liberties groups are gathering together in opposition to Texas Gov. Rick Perry's day of prayer and fasting this weekend,” the AP writes. “The groups, which say they represent tens of thousands of Texans, oppose the governor's prayer meeting on Saturday because they say it disrespects the separation of church and state. They also complain that the groups organizing the event hold extreme positions on freedom of religion, homosexuality and the role of religion in government.”

Politico looks at how Perry’s entrance into the 2012 race could impact Karl Rove. “Rove, who served as George W. Bush’s political strategist in Texas on his way to becoming the GOP’s best known political operative, had a falling out with Perry and his staff when Bush was governor in the 1990’s that has become the stuff of Lone Star lore. With no signs the two have patched things up — and with some suggestion that Rove, or at least his team, is tilting toward Romney — speculating how their relationship would play out if Perry becomes a candidate has become something of a fixation among Perry supporters and other Republicans in Texas and Washington.”

National Journal's insider poll found that DC Republicans rank Perry as the second most likely candidate to win the nomination after Mitt Romney.

The Texas Tribune profiles Perry's wife Anita. "Perry grew up as the daughter of a country doctor in a place where, as she has fondly recalled, freezers were piled high with casseroles for neighbors in need. She possesses a small-town reserve along with her matter-of-fact kindness. Behind that reserve is also a woman who encouraged her husband to get out of his “comfort zone” — and run for president."

The New Hampshire Union Leader’s DiStaso reports on New Hampshire activists who met with Rick Perry in Austin, Texas yesterday.

ROMNEY: NBC’s Garrett Haake reports, the National Organization for Marriage announced Thursday that GOP presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum have signed their anti-gay marriage pledge. The pledge requires signatories to support a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, fight for the federal Defense of Marriage Act in court, and appoint judges and an attorney general who will "respect the original meaning of the Constitution". The candidates signing the pledge also promise to appoint a presidential commission to investigate harassment of traditional marriage supporters, and support legislation that would allow voters in the District of Columbia to vote directly for or against same-sex marriage there. The organization's president called the three candidates "marriage champions" for signing the pledge. The organization will begin a bus tour across Iowa in conjunction with two other social conservative groups next week. A Romney campaign spokesperson called the NOM commitment a "straightforward pledge that reaffirms Governor Romney's belief that marriage is between a man and a woman."

The mysterious $1 million dollar donation to Romney's Super PAC, first reported by NBC News yesterday, continues to draw scrutiny. The Boston Globe reports that a non-profit group advocating against corporate involvement in elections has sent a letter to the Delaware attorney general asking for an investigation of the PAC, Restore our Future, and the mysterious company W Spann LLC, which dissolved only weeks after writing the committee a $1 million check.

NBC News’ Isikoff reports that two campaign reforms groups will request investigations of the donation later today. "Fred Wertheimer, the president of Democracy 21, an advocacy group for campaign reform, said the contribution appeared to be ‘blatantly’ designed to circumvent campaign disclosure laws. He said Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, another advocacy group that promotes greater transparency in election laws, will formally request an investigation into the donation on Friday. "

SANTORUM: Santorum and Herman Cain spoke at the same event in Iowa yesterday. Santorum, who per NBC’s Anthony Terrell worked the room shaking hands, took a mild shot at Cain seated at an adjacent table: “I drove myself here. Herman, you got a nice bus, but I drove my Ford Pickup here.” The lights dimmed and Santorum joked, “I assume my time is up, so…” to laughs in the crowd. That’s when the lights went out, leaving only candle light. Santorum responded, saying, “Oh, I guess my time is REALLY up now, okay,” which w as met by even louder laughter. And then Santorum began to sing, “Strangers in the Night,” holding the last note - apparently on key.