COMMENTARY | In the wake of Michele Bachmann’s very strong performance during the GOP debate in New Hampshire Monday, many people who had previously dismissed her as not being a serious candidate are having to reevaluate their position.
Bachmann does have some legitimate strengths and advantages over the other Republican candidates. Her biggest advantage is that her supporters passionately stand by her. They have stood resolutely beside her throughout all the controversy she has been involved with over the past few years. Mitt Romney has built up a tremendous campaign apparatus that is flush with campaign cash. However, that is more the result of the big donors of the party establishment making the calculated decision that Romney will be the party’s nominee rather than a sign of their enthusiasm for him.
This fact was confirmed by Iowa GOP leaders practically begging Chris Christie to enter the race last month, even after his repeated denials, according to The Hill. The attempts being made at recruiting people such as Rick Perry further show the party’s discontent with the current field. Bachmann has strategically positioned herself to be the choice of the Tea Party activists and social conservatives, and it is hard to see any of the other current candidates being able to appeal to that conservative base like she does. One only needs to look at the 2010 mid-term elections to see the effect the Tea Party constituency can have on an election; their embrace of Bachmann is significant.
Bachmann has also shown to be an effective fundraiser. This will be essential if she is able to mount a grassroots-based campaign that can challenge Romney. During her tough re-election fight for her congressional seat in 2010, she was able to raise $13.2 million, according to the Huffington Post. Most of these donations came from individual donors, which speaks volumes about her effective ability to raise large amounts of money even without much support from the Republican establishment.
Bachmann does not speak like a typical politician, and while that leads to controversial statements, it also will endear her to many Americans who are disillusioned with political speak and candidates full of equivocations. Also, a substantial amount of Americans are angry. They are unemployed or battling to keep their homes from foreclosure. Amongst the conservative base, there are widespread fears that the image of America they cherish is being systematically dismantled. The passion and firmness with which Bachmann argues on their behalf will make her a force for Romney and others to reckon with.
Unfortunately for the congresswoman, her biggest disadvantage far outweighs any advantages she has. The Republican Party wants to win the 2012 election, and there is absolutely no way she can win a general election. While the conservative base of the party enjoys her inflammatory rhetoric, the general electorate will not. President Obama was elected based strongly on his message of “Hope and Change.” The American public wants someone who unites and inspires people.
Also, the Republican Party knows that its best chance to defeat President Obama will be to simply hammer him relentlessly on the economy. A Bachmann candidacy will distract from that message, as the party will have to spend precious time defending the criticism that will be directed at her numerous outrageous comments. The comments she has made on homosexuality, global warming, abortion, evolution, and the Obama administration make her unelectable. She will certainly inject some life into what is a remarkably lifeless Republican field, but in the end the GOP will nominate someone who can defeat President Obama.