On Monday, Michele Bachmann declared she was a candidate for President of the United States. Nobody was shocked but I — and several million other people — got real interested in American politics – real fast. Ms. Bachmann brings huge flair to a GOP campaign that, so far, has lacked a discernable pulse. John Stewart and Stephen Colbert are peeing their pants anticipating their autumn TV ratings. The girls from The View are sharpening their claws. And journalists from here to McMurdo Station, Antarctica are dissecting every word she’s ever uttered to find a “pants on fire” error. The big gun personalities, however, are still waiting in the weeds, but they’ve put their assistants on bread and water until they come up with 2012’s defining “gotcha” question. Chris Wallace seriously jumped the gun on Sunday when he asked her — point blank — “Are you a flake?” Pure idiot – he probably won’t get another crack at her and will be sniping from the sidelines once the action really heats up next year.
If I sound jaded, I’m not. If I sound like a supporter, I’m not. I’m just very aware that Bachmann is being painted as Sarah Palin in a skirt; she’s not. There are some similarities, certainly; both desperately need a full-time fact checker, for one. But I’m warning you, folks: take this woman seriously.
Sarah Palin was (and still is) a Republican mistake. She was supposed to be the sacrificial “hockey mom” to the ’08 Obama juggernaut. Unfortunately, she didn’t shut up and go home after it was all over. Instead, she hung on to the spotlight and the microphone (I think she likes them) and became Sarah Palin, sideshow. Along the way, she changed politics forever.
Michele Bachmann is nobody’s sacrificial lamb. She’s serious. She has an army of resolute supporters. She can raise money – lots of it. She has a message that many people want to hear — “America was great once, and it can be great again.” She’s guaranteed tons of press, mainly because Palin was such good copy. And she has arrived at a time and a place where she (because Palin is unelectable) is the stand-alone candidate. Plus, she is the most dangerous of all opponents; she believes in what she’s saying.
Up until now, the Republicans have produced a whole bunch of candidates that ordinary people can’t name (except Newt Gingrich.) They’ve been busy playing musical chairs with who wants to lose to Obama. Mitt Romney and Tom Pawlenty are apparently the front runners, but from what I’ve seen, it’s a terminal case of the bland leading the bland. Not so suddenly, Michele Bachmann shows up in Waterloo, Iowa, with nothing on her mind but the Oval Office, and suddenly she’s tied in the polls with Mitt for 1st place. This is the kind of momentum politicians scheme about. Bachmann is a natural press magnet. Her name recognition is already huge and she’s only been on the job, officially, for 48 hours. Primary season is eight months away.
What everybody — including Romney, Pawlenty and Huntsman — has to remember is the primaries are not about voters. They are about galvanizing the party faithful; that diehard 15%. These are the people the candidates have to turn into supporters. You can’t win primaries without them, and you’re not going to be anything but yesterday’s news without primary victories. This is where Republican moderates are stumbling around in the dark. The Tea Party has the high ground. They show up in numbers and can get their people front and centre. They can raise huge amounts of money. They are willing to stand up and be counted. Unfortunately, they’re also willing to present unelectable candidates (Christine O’Donnell) rather than compromise their principles.
This is the problem. A lot of people think Michele Bachmann is just Sarah Palin with one less “you betcha,” and they are not going to take her seriously. This is a mistake. Bachmann can ride the Tea Party to legitimately become the Republican nominee for President.
If she does, when she gets to the national stage, Barack Obama and the media are going to tear her apart.