Has Rick Perry proved he's a better campaigner than Michele Bachmann?

At a Republican dinner in Iowa Sunday night, recently announced candidate Rick Perry appeared to outshine the straw poll winner, Michele Bachmann. His campaign team is receiving accolades too.

Charles Dharapak/AP
Republican presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, holds a cut out of Spc. James Benal of the Nebraska National Guard, serving in Afghanistan, after it was handed to him by Benal's mother as Perry visited the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, Monday, Aug. 15.

Michele Bachmann had a pretty good weekend, if you haven’t heard. The Minnesota congresswoman won the GOP straw poll in Ames, Iowa – solidifying her position as a top tier candidate for the Republican nomination.

Iowa is a “threshold test” for conservatives such as Representative Bachmann, notes polling expert Nate Silver in his FiveThirtyEight blog. It’s necessary that they do well there, though a good performance may not be sufficient to push them over the top.

Now Bachmann has to be considered the favorite to win the Iowa caucuses early next year, according to Mr. Silver.

“She has cleared her first hurdle with aplomb,” he writes.

But here’s a question political experts all over Washington are asking this morning: In recent days has Texas Gov. Rick Perry proved he’s a more adept campaigner than the fiery Bachmann?

Partly this discussion stems from Governor Perry’s smooth appearance Sunday evening in Bachmann’s home town. At the Black Hawk County GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner he arrived early, went table to table around the room for affable meet-and-greet, and then spoke strongly. Wisely, he paid court to Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican icon who was in the audience.

Bachmann was there too – she was not about to cede her home turf of Waterloo, Iowa, without a fight. But she stayed in her bus until it was time for her to take the stage, according to reporters who were there. After an initial introduction by a local official, she was still nowhere to be found, according to Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin of Politico. It took a second introduction to get her up to the microphone.

“By the time she made her big entrance to bright lights and blaring music, the crowd seemed puzzled,” wrote Messrs. Smith and Martin.

But this single incident isn’t the only thing that’s created a buzz about Perry’s perceived abilities on the stump.

Perry’s yes-I’m-running speech on Saturday at a gathering organized by the conservative blog RedState went off without a hitch, according to RedState editor Eric Erickson.

Perry’s campaign team is operating with the polish of a general election operation, according to Mr. Erickson, pulling off such difficult stunts as smuggling the college roommates of Perry and his wife into the hall without the candidate finding out.

“While many of the campaigns have been going for a while and are still struggling to get the look and feel of a presidential campaign, Perry’s team has it already,” writes Erickson.

Over the past seven days, “Michele Bachmann” has been the most-searched candidate name on Yahoo!, according to information provided by the search giant.

But “Rick Perry” is number two, and the totals are close. Searches for “Rick Perry biography” have gone up 824 percent over the last week, says Yahoo!.

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