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Michele Bachmann is winning

Iowa Loves Michele

Bashing Michele Bachmann is not a new sport among pundits, which I pointed out after she formally announced her presidential bid. But the heightened interest in the Minnesota congresswoman has inspired some particularly harsh and strongly worded rhetoric. Matt Taibbi especially goes off in a recent Rolling Stone article:

Bachmann is a religious zealot whose brain is a raging electrical storm of divine visions and paranoid delusions. […] In modern American politics, being the right kind of ignorant and entertainingly crazy is like having a big right hand in boxing; you've always got a puncher's chance. And Bachmann is exactly the right kind of completely [...] crazy. Not medically crazy, not talking-to-herself-on-the-subway crazy, but grandiose crazy, late-stage Kim Jong-Il crazy -- crazy in the sense that she's living completely inside her own mind, frenetically pacing the hallways of a vast sand castle she's built in there, unable to meaningfully communicate with the human beings on the other side of the moat, who are all presumed to be enemies.

But that's not what this post is about. I promised readers in last week's Bachmann post, which rounded up negative opinions about the "tea party" candidate, that I'd present a counterargument. And I am here to deliver. The problem is that the positive opinions I found come either with a caveat or some critique. In fact, some sound an awful like the people who don't like her, which just goes to show you that Bachmann's appeal is in the eye of beholder. Bottom line: We ought to take Bachmann seriously.

What I like about Bachmann

From the feminist site Hello Ladies:

1. I like that she’s a woman aiming for the highest level of government. We need more women to run for office. As we’ve written in the past, women bring a unique perspective and much needed diversity to public office.

2. I like that she is out front and vocal about being a mother. I agree with PunditMom who wrote, “being a mom isn’t a political qualification, but it is a lens through which more issues should be viewed on the political stage.”

That’s the whole list. […]

[W]hen we finally elect Madam President, she should be pro-woman, with policies and a voting record to support her position. 

Bachmann is winning the fight against the "liberal media," which is focusing its attention on the wrong thing

Juan Williams for Fox News:

Do you get the sense that Michele Bachmann is under attack by the press? I do.

And Rep. Bachmann is winning the fight. […]

Whenever the press spotlights one of her stumbles at the microphone the Minnesota congresswoman gets a flood of support and money. She becomes "Every Woman," a misunderstood Tea Party mother of five facing down an elitist, arrogant, Obama-leaning press corps. […]

The problem with Bachmann’s candidacy is not the gaffes she makes or her many misstatements about American history. The bigger issue is her extreme right-wing views and where she would take the country if she were elected president.

And while the media hasn’t gotten around to doing that “penetrating expose” on the anti-American views of members of Congress, they are just now getting beyond the widely reported gaffe by Rep. Bachmann and beginning to expose a really big story -- her radicalism.

She's no flake

Bob Franken for the Modesto Bee:

She needs to be taken seriously. She is definitely not a flake, and her success so far is not a fluke.

She’s smart and strategic

Luiza Ch. Savage for Canada's national current affairs magazine Maclean's:

While every presidential campaign cycle seems to have its ideological purist who draws single-digit support (hello, Dennis Kucinich), Bachmann is doing more than that. She has the elements of a serious effort — a clear political identity, an energized base of faithful supporters, and the ability to raise incredible amounts of money from a base of small donors. In her last congressional race, Bachmann smashed national fundraising records by raising $11 million. “She is smart and she’s strategic,” says [Lawrence Jacobs, a University of Minnesota political scientist who has moderated debates in her congressional races].

She’s articulate and disciplined

Meghan Daum for the Los Angeles Times:

Despite what "Saturday Night Live" thinks, she knows which camera to look at when she's on TV. She also hasn't resigned from public office in order to raise her public profile. As much as it pains me to say it, she's articulate and disciplined. She seems like an adult. These aren't traits we necessarily associate with [Sarah] Palin.

She’s authentic

Doyle McManus for the Los Angeles Times:

Right now, that alternative is Bachmann, the fiery, photogenic and sometimes outrageous Minnesota representative who founded Congress' Tea Party Caucus last year. Bachmann recognized earlier than most elected politicians that the tea party was a powerful wave of grass-roots fervor; she endorsed it, encouraged it and cultivated it long before her party's official leadership got there.

Now she's reaping the benefit. Plenty of potential Republican candidates this year sought to cast themselves as logical choices for tea party adherents, but Bachmann had the advantage of authenticity. She was tea party before tea party was cool. […]

But don't underestimate her. She's hardcore, but she's no flake. She's smart, tough and hardworking. And, unlike Palin, she learns from her mistakes.

She has support on Main Street

Jeff Zeleny for the New York Times:

"She's blunt, and she says exactly what we need to hear," said one of the women, Julie Danke, who added that it was too early to say who she would ultimately vote for.

The rousing reception for Mrs. Bachmann also highlighted a challenge in the coming weeks as candidates prepare to compete in their first unofficial showdown: the Iowa straw poll. With nearly every handshake she delivered, Mrs. Bachmann added a pitch: "Come to the straw poll!"

Turning excitement along a parade route into committed support is her next test.

RELATED:

Who takes Michele Bachmann seriously?

Michele Bachmann: The anti-Mitt Romney

Michele Bachmann's presidential bid in perspective

McManus: For the GOP, it's Romney, Bachmann and, maybe, Perry

-- Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota participates in the Fourth of July parade in Clear Lake, Iowa. Credit: Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press

 

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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.



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