What does unite them, of course, is that the left and the liberals have nothing but utter contempt for both of them. Hence we will continue to hear that Bachmann is simply Palin redux. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The only question is whether or not Bachmann can expand her Republican base constituency and evangelical supporters to attract the votes of both independents and more centrist Republicans. At Commentary’s Contentions, Jonathan S. Tobin writes that “in just a few weeks Bachmann has elevated herself from a second tier curiosity to a serious contender for the GOP nomination.” She has been considered a flame-thrower and an extremist, someone whose flame will die out after the Iowa caucuses, leaving her in the position Mike Huckabee held in the last presidential race. As it is turning out, however, the mainstream Jon Huntsman is hardly gathering any support, while more and more Republicans are finding Bachmann more and more credible as a possible candidate.
As Tobin aptly writes,
Bachmann has shown herself in recent weeks to be a polished and articulate candidate who has carefully modulated her statements and demonstrated she is ready for prime time. As analyst Nate Silver wrote in today’s New York Times, her polling numbers are simply terrific. She isn’t merely competing with the frontrunners who are supposed to be out of her class; she has the best favorability ratings of any candidate.
And Silver adds that she might very well even win the Republican nomination.
If that indeed is the final outcome — we are of course a long way from the convention — be assured that the Obama team will do all it can to paint her as an out-of-touch, far-right extremist; a woman who would destroy the nation and throw it into a final downward spiral. Tobin writes that what Bachmann must do, if she is to be the nominee, is “to stay on message, avoid foolish mistakes and also develop a coherent approach to foreign policy that will make her sound like someone who could actually be president.”
Michele Bachmann has shown that she has the skills to do just that. But to win the presidency, she has to gain the support of many more people than her own base in the Republican Party, and far more than the Christian evangelical community. And she has to gain the support primarily of those critical white working-class voters who now are facing hard times, and who had moved back to the ranks of the Democratic Party, only to show in the most recent polls that they are fed up with the Obama administration. She has to develop an economic policy that will let these voters feel that her policies will give them something to vote for as well.
At any rate, Michele Bachmann cannot be underestimated. She is now a major contender and is gathering more support and enthusiasm than her competitors.
Recently, E.J. Dionne wrote favorably about Jon Huntsman, saying that “he’s the only Republican waging something other than a standard-issue conservative campaign and the only one directing most of his energies toward voters who don’t take their cues from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.” That kind of endorsement will only serve to hurt Huntsman and harm his ability to get the votes of Republicans. Liberal pundits endorsing a Republican as a viable candidate is not something that will endear that person to conservative voters, who want a candidate who articulates a solid alternative to mainstream liberal shibboleths.
It is a sure thing that if Bachmann only grows in strength, Dionne will write a column blasting her as this year’s Palin — a far-right Neanderthal who must be defeated at all costs. Undoubtedly, Michele Bachmann knows what is coming down the pike and is going to be prepared for the forthcoming assault.
Let us hope that whomever Republicans choose to nominate, it will be someone who can beat Obama solidly come the next presidential election day.
In her speech announcing her candidacy on Monday, Bachmann made what her opponents quickly condemned as a typical gaffe. Speaking in Waterloo, Iowa, she promised to match the spirit of Waterloo’s own John Wayne. The only problem is that it was not John Wayne who heralded from the town, but the famous serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Wayne, the movie actor, lived in Winterset, a three-hour drive from Waterloo. Wayne Gacy, the murderer, lived in Waterloo.
Making a big deal about this, to my mind, is much ado about nothing. Anyone could make such an error. But as it turns out, the actor Wayne had a very real tie to Waterloo, Iowa. His parents met and got married there, but soon after, moved to Winterset. Bachmann may very well have read this in a popular biography of Wayne, and remembered incorrectly his reference to Waterloo.
Anyway, her point was clear. As the Washington Times article notes, Bachmann, rejecting the idea that America has to go into decline, said: “I grew up with John Wayne’s America. I was proud that you grew up in John Wayne’s America: Proud to be an American, thrilled to be a patriot.” Whether it was Waterloo or Winterset, she has made her argument as strong as she could.