Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann announced her presidential campaign roughly a month ago and has already gone from being seen as the dark horse of the race by the Republican establishment to currently tie first alongside perceived front-runner and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in Iowa, home to the crucial Iowa Caucus. And has been rising in the polls in New Hampshire as well, which holds its primary right after Iowa, to now being within single-digits of Romney. Bachmann is also a vociferous fundraiser. Raising over $13 million for her 2010 reelection campaign, more than any other House candidate.
Bachmann has based her strategy on winning over the socially conservative base of the party and has the credentials to boost: Anti-abortion (was a pro-life activist before her entry into politics), anti-gay marriage (as a state senator sponsored legislation to ban it), voted against the bank bailout (i.e. TARP), and has proposed reducing the corporate tax rate to 9% and eliminating the capital-gains and estate tax. No surprise that she has also voted against Obama’s health care reform law.
It is little wonder that she has become one of the most active politicians on behalf of the Tea Party movement, seen as a champion among Tea Party voters, and is the founding member of the House’s “Tea Party Caucus”.
And she is also a native child of Iowa. Something she is keen to emphasize as The Economist recently noted, “And Mrs Bachmann certainly knows how to play Iowa. She says she cried, as a girl of 12, when she learned that her family was moving out of the state where she was born. . . Mrs Bachmann had hammered home her local credentials. As a cheerful throng feasted on pulled-pork sandwiches and baked beans, she wistfully recalled the names of all the local schools and churches she had attended. Any suspicion of a shallow or incidental connection to the state was vanquished by the claim that her forebears “came here in the 1850s and were literally part of the pioneers who felled the trees and created the greatness that is Iowa”.”
Even President Bill Clinton has offered words of praise. Speaking on “Good Morning America”, Clinton remarked “I’ve been watching her speak. She comes across as a real person.”
Many establishment Republicans may muse that Clinton’s words were a cynical ploy designed to promote the candidacy of a Congresswoman sure to lighten the heart of President Obama, facing a tough reelection prospect but whose odds would appear to greatly improve against a polarizing figure like Bachmann.
Bachmann knows how to rally the Republican base, but her appeal to independents has been limited. In 2008 she trailed John McCain by 6% in her district and in 2010 despite her massive war chest she secured victory with a slim 52%, a poor showing for any incumbent made more so in a propitious year for Republicans.
For a lot of Americans many of Bachmann’s views appear too conservative or dogmatic. Last year, for example, she described the Census as an unwarranted intrusion by government in private life even though it is mandated in the Constitution by the very Farmers Bachmann professes to uphold as models for governance.
And there is the question of whether she is capable of being president. Bachmann’s experience is limited to a four year tenure as state senator and was only recently elected to Congress in 2006.
“She does not chair a committee or subcommittee. No bills or resolutions she has sponsored have become law, and only two have won approval in the House: one designating September as “National Hydrocephalus Awareness Month” and one honouring the 150th anniversary of Minnesotan statehood,” The Economist recently noted.
And one Democratic Congressman is saying as much and hoping for a Bachmann nomination. Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky predicts a landslide for President Obama if his challenger is Bachmann.
“Michele Bachmann is not equipped to be president of the United States. She is totally out of the mainstream. Her ideas are extremely radical and reckless,” Yarmuth was quoted by ABC News.
“Just saying that she’s not going to vote against the debt ceiling under any circumstances indicates to me she’s obviously not equipped to be president of the United States. She would bring this economy to its knees, just for some philosophical ideology that she has. But that’s the way she is.”
“She’s a very talented marketer. She knows her assets and she markets them well. But if she were fully exposed to the scrutiny of a presidential campaign, I’m very confident President Obama would win all 50 states,” he added.