COMMENTARY | Michele Bachmann filed paperwork Monday announcing her candidacy for president of the United States. She made it official by making the announcement at that night’s debate on CNN, where, by most accounts, she was the star. Bachmann was enthusiastic, graceful, and quick-witted, exuding confidence that some of her rivals lacked.
She now needs to capitalize on her debate performance and broaden her appeal and name recognition among the voters outside of Minnesota. It will be a long road to the White House, where pitfalls must be avoided and opportunities must be seized. Her stellar performance at the debate will be an advantage and a disadvantage to her in the upcoming primary season.
Although a Congresswoman from Minnesota, Bachmann was born in neighboring Iowa, home of the first caucuses. According to the Associated Press, Bachmann has broad appeal to both fiscal and social conservatives as well as evangelicals, who make up the majority of Republican voters in the Iowa caucuses. She has made numerous trips to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina in a bid to round up support in the early voting states. Mitt Romney avoiding the straw poll in Ames adds to her advantage in Iowa.
Her family story
Bachmann has a compelling family story that resonates with voters. Her parents divorced when she was young and she was raised by a single mother. She has since been married to her husband Marcus for over 30 years. They have five children of their own and have opened their home to be the foster parents to 23 other children. Because of this, she has earned bipartisan praise in Congress for being one of the leading advocates for adopted and foster children.
Engaging, confident, and well-informed
Bachmann is an engaging, confident public speaker with an excellent command of the facts. Monday night’s debate only added to her appeal, showing her “as a competent, knowledgeable insider who would nonetheless carry on the fight against big government with the zeal of a Tea Party activist,” reports the New York Times. According to Andrew Hemingway, president of the New Hampshire Republican Liberty Caucus, “In her demeanor, in the way that she carried herself — she walked out of that debate where everybody said, ‘She is a very serious candidate.'” Overall, she projected confidence, and voters want to elect a confident leader.
The media are beginning to take her candidacy seriously. While prone to the occasional gaffe, and what politician isn’t, some of the more liberal members of the media will use that to discredit her. In the aftermath of Monday’s debate, some writers have dropped coverage of Sarah Palin and switched to Bachmann. While compliments were forth coming, some were of the back-handed variety, such as “she was at ease and forceful without looking crazy or out-of-control” from E.J. Dionne at the Washington Post.
President Obama’s main strength in the 2008 campaign was controlling the media message. Bachman will need to do the same to avoid the Sarah Palin “I can see Russia from my house” quotes.
Bachmann is light on political experience at the national level, having served in the House since 2007. Prior to that, she served in the Minnesota State Senate for six years, diving into the race in a fight over school standards. Before entering politics, she spent five years as a federal tax litigation attorney, working on civil and criminal cases. Her litigation experience shaped her support for simplifying the tax code and reducing the tax burden for families and small businesses.
Bachmann is a proficient fundraiser, collecting over $13 million for her last House campaign. Unfortunately for her, that does not translate into the organization and infrastructure to run a national campaign. She has been gathering the support of up-and-comers in the GOP, tapping Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson to run her Iowa campaign. Ed Rollins, Mike Huckabee’s 2008 national campaign director and the orchestrator of Ronald Reagan’s landslide win in 1984, has signed on to be Bachmann’s campaign director, according to CBS News. Rollins also brought in Brett O’Donnell, adviser to George W. Bush and John McCain, considered the best debate coach in politics.