Thursday, June 16, 2011


Mark Halperin tries to explain why Michele Bachmann is suddenly breaking through and getting mainstream respect -- but I think the real reason is something he never says directly:

For two hours onstage with her GOP rivals, Bachmann appeared polished, serene and in command. Her smooth performance was partly the work of a top-shelf team of veteran advisers (manager Ed Rollins, pollster Ed Goeas, forensic coach Brett O’Donnell). They sanded down some of her rough edges but let Bachmann be Bachmann, complete with zinging anti-Obama applause lines and sunny-side-up conservatism.

Maybe that's the explanation, but I think the real takeaway here is: If you want the likes of Mark Halperin to take you seriously, then hire people Mark Halperin knows personally. Hire members of the Beltway insiders' club.

Bachmann's belief system is insane, but three decades of Reagan, Rush, Rupert and Roger have desensitized America to this level of insanity; after seventeen months of five-day-a-week Glenn Beck in your living room, Bachmann seems kinda subdued. And if we're too brainwashed to recognize that what she's saying is crazy, then her natural political talent can come through; I agree with Dave Weigel that she really does have natural political talent:

...Back in March, when Bachmann started floating the idea of a presidential bid, there was already beaucoups evidence that she had a unique hold on a powerful constituency, a bid for a few other constituencies, and more charisma than anyone in the race so far....

The congresswoman has always been ... disciplined.... The most self-promotional project she's done was not actually a promotion for herself. It was using her name to promote "Fire from the Heartland," a film from "The Undefeated" director Steve Bannon, all about conservative women, not just Bachmann.

Actually, look at the way Bachmann and Palin handled a specific problem. Bachmann did a tour of New Hampshire in May and said, very incorrectly, that the battle of Lexington and Concord had involved Concord, N.H. It was the gaffe reporters were waiting for, but Bachmann admitted it, and joked that she'd made the mistake because New Hampshire, not Manchester, was where people still
remembered the battle. (IE, they're more patriotic.) Compare that to Palin making chorizo out of a statement about Paul Revere's ride -- and then claiming that when she talking about him "warning the British" and ringing bells, she was totally right.

Maybe those slick pros she hired polished her presentation a bit, but I think they help her most just by existing. The fact that they exist in her campaign is why the Mark Halperins of the world can take her seriously. If Herman Cain had hired them, and done a better-than-average job in a debate, they'd be taking him seriously instead.

Oh, Halperin also gives us another reason for Bachmann's success:

Unlike previous insurgents who fell short (Pat Buchanan, Mike Huckabee), Bachmann is a formidable fundraiser who should be able to buy plenty of TV airtime to go with an energized ground game.

Yup, she's a fundraising dynamo. That's not just good for keeping her competitive, it's good forimpressing the likes of Mark Halperin. If Jimmy McMillan could raise the million Bachmann raises, Halperin would take him seriously, even if his platform never extended beyond "Rent Is Too Damn High."

I'm not saying Bachmann can become president, or even the GOP nominee. She has too much competition for the crazy vote, and there are too many Republicans who want a safer choice because they hate Obama so much and just want to beat him, so I don't think she can get the nomination. As for the #2 slot, I think she's a tad too extreme for that, especially as a Romney pick (though if she were from, say, Ohio, or another swing state with a lot of electoral votes, she might have a shot). But she has talent (which always matters), despite the fact that she's a lunatic (which doesn't seem to matter nearly as much as it should), so she's competitive.

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