Michele Bachmann: The anti-Mitt Romney [The Conversation]
Michele Bachmann is all the buzz after Monday night's New Hampshire Republican presidential debate, in which she emerged as the anti-Mitt Romney and a leading candidate for the GOP nomination. Here's what opinionators are saying:
She’s the "tea party" candidate
There was one candidate who rose above the usual positioning, though she stood a head shorter than the six men on the stage. Eleven minutes into the debate, Michele Bachmann stole the show, and she didn't return it in the subsequent hour and 49 minutes. […]She served Tea Partyers all their favorites: "I want to announce tonight President Obama is a one-term president. ... I will not rest until I repeal Obamacare. ... There is no other agency like the EPA. It should really be renamed the job-killing organization of America. ... I fought behind closed doors against my own party on TARP.”
She might be more rational than Sarah Palin
Bachmann indisputably knows how to put on a show, but one problem, according to John B. Judis at The New Republic: "She lacks Palin's charm and sexual charisma." More winking, perhaps?
Bachmann is clearly more interested in pretending to be rational. She also claimed on the Early Show this morning that she would be the "voice of common sense" in the White House, "where it's been missing for far too long."
The parallels between Bachmann and Palin are hard to ignore, up to and including their backgrounds as minor beauty pageant contestants. Both women are politically rooted in the anti-abortion movement, having earned the loyalty of anti-choicers by "walking the walk" -- Palin by carrying to term a child with a severe disability, and Bachmann by serving as a foster parent to 23 children (in addition to her own five), plus walking a few abortion clinic picket lines over the years. Both candidates are heroes of the Tea Party movement (Bachmann is the founder of the House Tea Party Caucus). And both have regularly played fast and loose with facts and history, constantly treading the boundary between ideologically loaded viewpoint and sheer ignorance.
She opposes gay rights
Lots of politicians talk about a sinister homosexual agenda. Bachmann, who has made opposition to gay rights a cornerstone of her career, seems genuinely to believe in one. […] Indeed, no other candidate in the race is so completely a product of the evangelical right as Bachmann; she could easily become the Christian conservative alternative to the comparatively moderate Mormon Mitt Romney. "Michele Bachmann's a complete package," says Ralph Reed, the former Christian Coalition wunderkind who now runs the Faith and Freedom Coalition. "She's got charisma, she's got an authentic faith testimony, she's a proven fighter for conservative values, and she's well known."
She hasn't thought through her economic policies
Michele Bachmann had the strangest, most simplistic economic solution of all: simply close down the Environmental Protection Agency, which she said "should really be renamed the Job-Killing Organization of America."
The media will try to tear her down for her religious faith
Now that she's had a chance to exhibit her talents on the national stage, her detractors are going to have to do more than mention the fact that she looked into the wrong camera during her response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech and committed a gaffe when she thought the Revolutionary War started in Concord, New Hampshire, [rather] than Concord, Massachusetts. Which means that slurs about her religious faith, her political beliefs and the usual snarky stuff that is used against female politicians (her looks, clothes, hair and makeup) will be trotted out.
But Bachmann's media-savvy
She also used her moment on the national stage, which she shared with six other candidates, to announce that she had formally filed her papers to run for president. The announcement comes less than eight months before the first GOP presidential nomination contest will be held in Iowa, the state of her birth.
The savvy political move, which came just 11 minutes into Monday night's nationally televised event, guaranteed that her name would dominate early stories flooding the Internet about the debate.
And she's always been a star
Bachmann's good performance seems to have caught everyone by surprise except me. The media paints Bachmann as a wild-eyed nut, but I've known her for years, and she's very sharp and quick-witted. She didn't make any mistakes, and perhaps more than anyone last night allowed her personality to shine, impressing even Dana Milbank. She can play with the big boys, as she will prove again and again, but other than the surprise factor, Bachmann turned in a solid but not breakout performance.
--Alexandra Le Tellier
Photo: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) appears between former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, left, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Credit: Darren McCollester / Getty Images