Bye bye, Bachmann

The activists of the left won’t have Michele Bachmann to push around anymore.  From Politico’s requiem:

She was a bomb thrower, a master performer, a flashy politician with an appetite for combat and perhaps the strongest TV presence of any Republican in Washington. 

Maybe they were watching a different Congresswoman.  A “flashy politician” usually doesn’t confuse John Wayne with a serial killer.  Google “strong TV presence” and you won’t find media training classes based around looking off into space when receiving the gift of national media coverage.

Bachmann was not a model of the modern politician.  She lost.  Her messaging was incendiary enough for mainstream media attention but devoid of ideas – so while some folks on the right went along for a short ride based on the mainstream media’s shock and vitriol, Bachmann couldn’t carry a movement.  Her staff churned throughout the years.  The allegations that still hang around her campaigns reek more of absolute disorganization than intentional malfeasance; Team Bachmann doesn’t seem smart and organized enough to be corrupt.

She was a mess, but never a serious force.  She fed media coverage for a short time, but had no substance.    The heirs to her attention-craving throne (from the left or the right) will flame out quickly, too.

Michele Bachmann was, succinctly, the political equivalent of the girl you wish you hadn’t started a conversation with at a party:

Too Conservative to Win?

Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry have tag teamed to dominate the news cycles in recent days.  And as the opinionatti of the punditocracy (or whatever fun little nicknames you prefer) struggle to wrap their heads around what a straw poll victory and a late entry into the Presidential sweepstakes mean, they keep asking an intriguing question: Are these candidates too conservative to win a general election matchup against President Barack Obama?

This is especially true of the coverage of Bachmann; but taken together the Minnesota Congresswoman and the Texas Governor really display why this question is, to use the technical terms, BS.

No serious analyst of the race really believes Michele Bachmann has a snowball’s chance in the current residence  of Iowa native John Wayne Gacy.  If she wins the Republican nomination, she will most likely lose badly to the incumbent – maybe not Mondale vs. Reagan bad, but probably Dole vs. Clinton bad.  Bachmann will simply not resonate with a broad audience of American voters.

If Bachmann loses, it will not be for her views but for her tendency for gaffery.  Aside from confusing 20th century alpha male John Wayne with creepy clown artist/serial killer Gacy, Bachmann celebrated the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death by wishing The King a happy birthday.  For many political viewers, Bachmann’s introduction to the national stage came during a horribly flubbed “tea party response” to the State of the Union address.

The trend line is evident: under the glare of the national spotlight, Bachmann is unpolished, rough, and prone to mistakes.  She is, it seems, an incompetent campaigner.  Audiences who already agree with her message will overlook that, but audiences who need convincing will not.  Those folks will become more accepting of the other, seemingly competent voices who call her extreme.

Then comes the media storyline: Conservative goes down in flames to Mainstream Candidate.

You saw plenty of it in 2010, when tea partiers were blamed for costing Republicans gains in the US Senate. Primary victories by  Sharron Angle in Nevada, Joe Miller in Alaska, and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware were frequently cited as an example of primaries run amok.

All three lost, of course.  Angle and Miller had run-ins with the media that suggested the pressures of the campaign were getting to them; O’Donnell’s campaign was only notable for its ill-advised “I am not a witch” ad.  Meanwhile, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul won their Senate races.  Arch-conservative Ronald Reagan was President; Moderates Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, and Bob Dole were a half-termer, a one-termer and a no-termer, respectively.

A candidate has to appeal to voters, regardless of where they sit on the political spectrum.  Barack Obama may have been the most ideologically-driven to assume the Presidency since Lyndon Johnson; he was also likeable and projected strength.

As he begins his Presidential campaign, Rick Perry will face the same question as Bachmann: Is he “too conservative to win”?  And whether the eventual Republican nominee is Perry, Bachmann, or even Mitt Romney, the Obama campaign will surely try to stick the “right-wing extremist” label squarely on their metaphorical forehead.

Candidates with good, disciplined messages don’t let those labels stick.

Cross posted at

Obama announces; Pawlenty fires back

Since it was no secret that President Obama would run for re-election, Republican opponents had no reason to be slow in their response.  Tim Pawlenty took the first crack today with his newest video, “A New Direction“:

Pawlenty’s immediate, polished, and pithy video response shows keen preparation and intelligence.  The fact that he was the only Republican challenger in a position to make a video like this is one more reason one more reason he was smart to form his exploratory committee when he did.

Check out the contrast in style between Pawlenty’s video and the Obama announcement:

Pawlenty’s response mimics his previous trailers/videos, with thunderous background music and a serious tone.  Recognized voices of the left (like Paul Krugman) are skillfully used to point to the flaws in Obama’s policies, and the candidate (or candidate-to-be, officially) is the star.  Since the knock on T-Paw has been that he’s too bland and “Minnesota Nice” to rile up and motivate voters, the stirring rallying cry is his way of making the election seem like the fulcrum on which the lever of history will turn (or something like that) and positioning himself as the Man Our Times Cry Out For.

Meanwhile, Obama’s laid back video focuses on volunteers.  The criticism that Obama is self-centered and self-aggrandized is counterbalanced with the low-key collection of individuals talking about what they can do to re-elect the President.  If fact, Obama doesn’t even appear in the video, though he did “send” the email to supporters that announced the video.  Significantly, the first three supporters hail from North Carolina, Colorado, and Nevada – three traditionally red states that Obama carried in 2008.

The different styles reflect two different audiences.  Obama and his campaign handlers know that his announcement video is going to make the evening news, whether it’s a thoughtful call to supporting the policies of the last two years or the President delivering an autotuned address about the wonders of Friday.  (Actually, that second option would probably get an awful lot more press, but in a not-as-good kind of way.)  So his video is directed at the people who put him in office: the ones who made phone calls, knocked on doors and urged friends and neighbors to schlep out to polling places.  The video attempts to frame his re-election as every bit the grassroots movement as his 2008 election, despite the vast advantages of incumbency.

(Also worth noting is how one Obama supporter, Ed from North Carolina, echoes an old George W. Bush talking point from 2004: “I don’t agree with Obama on everything.  But I respect him and I trust him.”)

Pawlenty’s team also knew that the President’s announcement would be  guaranteed coverage.  So his video is built to take advantage of that press exposure – and earn coverage of his own to help lift his name recognition numbers.

Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na BACHMANN!

It’s shaping up to be a big week for Minnesotans running for President, with Michelle Bachmann yesterday suggesting that there might be a future announcement about preparing to make an announcement that she would consider heavily running for President.  (That’s an official FEC designation, as I understand it.)

For 2012, it’s tough to see where Bachmann will draw support.  She has made plenty of inroads with tea partiers, but her operation may be short on organizational infrastructure – a polite way of saying that the usual top-level consultants who know how a Presidential race is run may not want to touch her with a 40 foot pole.  (And what candidate would you touch with a 40 foot pole?  But that’s a question for another blog.)  Perhaps sensing vulnerability and indecision from Palin – or with inside knowledge that she won’t run – Bachmann sees the potential for a candidate straight out of central casting for the strong, suburban soccer mom demographic like herself to fill the gap.

Or maybe Bachmann is, despite all the criticism, pretty smart about the nature of political movements.  Some pundits might advise she bide her time, run for Governor or Senate, and table her White House ambitions until 2016, 2020, or even 2024.  But while the tea party movement where her support is based is very relevant now, the reality is that its influence may have already crested with the 2010 election.  If it could carry her through Iowa and possibly South Carolina early on, she could at least score a pretty good speaking slot at the Republican Convention.  It would be a long shot, but it also might be her best shot.