Arena Asked: Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) is drawing comparisons in her Republican presidential bid with another longshot candidate – Howard Dean, for a few months in 2003-04 the leading Democratic contender to challenge President George W. Bush. Both have drawn big summer crowds by pledging to confront the opposition party president. But Dean’s campaign fizzled even before voting began. Has Bachmann’s campaign peaked too soon? Will she end up as more of a Dean-like novelty candidate or can she go the distance?
My Answer: That bumper sticker “Dated Dean, Married Kerry” answers this question. Just look what happened after that misbegotten marriage. Choosing the least offensive rather than than the most energizing candidate didn’t serve the party very well, now did it?
Besides, think of a rhetorically fiery woman against Mr. Cool (and often caustically dismissive of others) Obama on the stump.
If I were a Republican consultant, I’d be cheering Bachmann on.
That said, we don’t yet know what Bachmann’s potentially fatal flaw will be. All candidates have them. Thus far, voters seem to be forgiving her almost surreal lack of the most basic historical facts. She approaches everything through an extreme ideological lens that quite literally gives her an alternative view of the universe. Most Americans are fundamentally tolerant and fair people. Her zeal for that rigid, theologically based universe might well cause her to do or say something that will implode her campaign just when she least expects it.
More likely than Bachmann flaming out on her own, however, is that the Tea Party itself will overreach and finally scare the bejesus out of the American voters. She could go down flying their flag when voters realize that when we are all suffering, the solution isn’t to feed those who have caused the pain while starving the rest of us, but rather to hang together, invest in innovation, and grow our way out of the current economic mess.