OTHER VIEW: Bachmann has charisma and focusPolitical observers who write off the presidential bid of Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann do so at their peril. The conservative Republican and tea party favorite jumped into the race last week with quite a splash.
Political observers who write off the presidential bid of Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann do so at their peril. The conservative Republican and tea party favorite jumped into the race last week with quite a splash. Not only did she steal the show at the first debate of GOP hopefuls in New Hampshire, she also managed to get extensive coverage in most of the nation’s big newspapers, including a dominating front-page photo in USA Today. She was among the lead stories on network and cable news. Later in the week, she was the runaway headliner at a major Republican leadership meeting in Louisiana, which also got her more highprofile media play.
Unlike the Republican she is frequently compared to, former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Bachmann is running a focused, wellfunded campaign. Palin has not formally entered the race. She’s otherwise engaged. While Palin was leading a bus tour distinguished by her uncanny ability to stick her foot in her mouth, Bachmann was courting Republicans who will be voting in early contests. Bachmann has spent a lot of time in Iowa, where it’s likely she will do well in an early straw poll and later caucuses. She’s made the rounds in New Hampshire, site of the nation’s first presidential primary, where she is less known but is working tirelessly to overcome the dominance there of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who’s been in New Hampshire enough times to claim residency.
Bachmann’s appeal to tea party types is good news for her during primary season, when narrow factions within the Republican Party can swing caucuses and primaries. But in order to win the presidency, a candidate can’t be seen as too far right or left. If (and at this point it’s a big if) Bachmann gets her party’s nomination, she will need more than the tea party manifesto to convince independent voters, moderate Republicans and disaffected Democrats she’s right for the Oval Office.
Meanwhile, she has emerged as the most interesting and charismatic candidate in a lackluster Republican field of middle-aged white guys and one uninspiring black guy. One need not subscribe to her ideology and rhetoric to recognize her strengths as a national player. She’s a passionate speaker, she looks good on camera, and she’s articulated a vision of government that resonates with a vast swath of the American middle class.
Can’t happen? She’s too radical on the right, the pundits say? Well, at this time four years ago, an obscure one-term senator, who was accurately described as too radical on the left, was making headlines and preparing to win primaries. A few months later, Barack Obama moved into the White House.
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