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.
Yesterday at PunditLeague, I argued that Michelle Bachmann’s “Tea Party Response” to the President’s State of Union address would not detract from Paul Ryan’s official Republican response. In practice, Bachmann’s response was actually better than Ryan’s – not because of content (Ryan did as well as he could have done), but because of style.
Despite Bachmann’s shortcomings as a speaker, her speech varied from typical State of the Union responses by including charts and images as visual aids. Ryan’s turn as a talking head was traditional, but less dynamic. As Brit Hume observed on Fox News last night, replying to the grandeur of the President’s address is difficult; it means sitting in a room with no audience, no applause, and no chance to speak in booming tones in front of an austere chamber. Bachmann did better in the empty room by simply filling it with something besides her. Granted, the charts could have looked better and could have included better visual representations of the consequences of the Administration’s fiscal policies, but the still looked better than Ryan’s charts (which, again, didn’t exist).
Future responses to the State of the Union might consider a more carefully crafted presentation that the Max Headroom-style talking heads that have become typical. The opposition’s annual reply is a rare chance to rebut the President before a national audience. Bachmann may have rankled Republican leaders with her rogue response – but she might be on to something.
UPDATE: Something I missed entirely in Bachmann’s presentation was the fact that she was apparently staring into space. I figured the video I saw (linked above, from PBS) simply had the camera positioned off to the side, and that Bachmann had another, main camera she was looking into. Unless this was filmed in the Congresswoman’s basement, I assumed SOMEONE would have told her to look into the camera; I guess that’s what happens when I assume.