Most in the media seem to be part bemused and part befuddled by Rep. Michele Bachmann’s rise in the recent round of 2012 Republican presidential polling. I am not. In fact at this juncture, I am surprised she is not faring better, particularly in Iowa where she is leading by double digits in some polls.
Two factors explain Bachmann’s surge. First, unlike many in the field, she is a candidate that Tea Partiers and social conservatives can get excited about. Let’s be honest, the oratory skills of Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney are not exactly lighting the world on fire, unless your idea of a rousing speech was Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s 2009 State of the Union response.
Second, and more importantly, many Republicans, particularly those whose views skew further to the right, harbor great disdain for GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney and his ever-wavering positions. At times, it seems these voters would rather see their candidate lose to President Obama in the general election than nominate Romney to be the GOP’s standard-bearer.
Will Bachmann win the 2011 Ames Straw Poll? I would bet on it, but don’t be surprised if Rep. Ron Paul also makes a strong showing in the straw poll. Over the years, Paul’s operatives have been fantastic at micro-organizing on the fly.
Could Bachmann run the table and win the 2012 GOP nomination? Yes, but I think that’s highly unlikely. Much depends on whether Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin enter the race. If either runs, they’ll take the wind out of Bachmann’s sails by making it harder for her to unite Tea Partiers and social conservatives behind her candidacy.
Assuming that the field is set and neither Perry nor Palin enters, I still think Bachmann will have a difficult time winning the nomination. She should fare extremely well in the Iowa caucuses next year, but after that her campaign is likely to sputter. As the field begins to narrow, general electability and a candidate’s perceived ability to create jobs will begin to play a bigger role for GOP primary voters. Bachmann’s lack of executive experience combined with her propensity for untimely gaffes and personal baggage will make it hard for her to win the delegates necessary for the nomination.
In all likelihood, by the time Republicans convene in Tampa next year, Bachmann will again be running to retain her U.S. House seat in Minnesota.