COMMENTARY | Michele Bachmann officially announced her candidacy during this week’s GOP debate in New Hampshire. While some see her as a serious contender, she faces as many challenges as she has strengths in accomplishing her goal of becoming the first female president. First is her awkward versions of U.S. history.
Her intimation that New Hampshire was “the state where the shot was heard around the world,” according to Politico, was interesting considering the Revolutionary War began in Massachusetts. Her presentation that John Quincy Adams “would not rest until slavery was extinguished” was equally strange being that Adams died almost two decades before the 13th Amendment was ratified. Her suggestion that Obama defer to Gen. David Petraeus on the situation in Libya was also quite curious. As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, she should have known that Petraeus is the commander of American forces in Afghanistan and has nothing to do with military decisions in Libya.
Where the political history of challengers like Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich is quite familiar, the national obscurity of the Minnesota representative will be a hindrance in that she must spend some of her campaign time playing catch-up. Bachmann’s poll placement is also a cause for concern. According to data compiled by Real Clear Politics, Bachmann has consistently trailed in every poll since her name was added to the list of potential GOP contenders.
A third challenge will be funding. While she has had little trouble garnering contributions to fund her congressional re-election campaigns, convincing people to open their wallets for an unfamiliar presidential candidate is quite different. According to Talking Points Memo, Bachmann’s inexperience is to blame. For example, when Bachmann attempted her first money-bomb in March, the goal was to raise $240,000 in 24 hours. She only managed to bring in just over $165,000. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, took in over $10 million in 24 hours using a nationwide phone bank. Where Bachmann used a spur-of-the-moment approach, Romney promoted his event heavily in the days before.
As for her strengths, while firm In her own beliefs, Bachmann would not use the presidency to impose those beliefs on others. During the debate, when asked if she would campaign to overturn New Hampshire’s law allowing same-sex marriage as president, while admitting she would support a constitutional marriage amendment, she didn’t believe it is a president’s role “to go into states and interfere with their state laws.”
Second, unlike Obama and some of her GOP challengers, Bachmann is unafraid to challenge members of her own party. Specifically, her identification of the Environmental Protection Agency during the debate as a “job killer” is already being criticized by left-wing advocacy groups. The problem is their clarification that the EPA was proposed by Republican President Richard Nixon simply verifies her position that she will risk favor within the party establishment to represent the will of the people. Additionally, she opposed TARP and raising the debt ceiling when the GOP leadership in Congress supported it.
Lastly, where many say Bachmann’s affiliation with the Tea Party portends some liability in her efforts as a GOP candidate, they may want to consider the facts. Against popular claims that the Tea Party is simply a “right-wing media creation” or some conglomerate of white racists, according to World Socialist Web Site, as Bachmann clarified during the New Hampshire debate, the Tea Party is actually a collection of “disaffected Democrats, independents, libertarians” and “people who have never been political a day in their lives,” which “is why the left fears it so much.”
So, “familiarity breeds contempt” or “to know me is to love me”? Only the American voters can decide.