Over the last four years, two women from opposite political poles have been serious candidates for the Presidency,
Hillary Clinton came very close to winning three years ago, but got caught in the wringer of a brilliant campaign by President Obama. Can she be a candidate again? As our Secretary of State, she has diligently supported Obama’s policies; it is likely that this has hurt her far more than helped. Further, unless Obama pulls a Lyndon Johnson and resigns, he will be the Democratic candidate in 2012 and Hillary will need to wait until 2016 when there will be fresher attractive candidates (such as Andrew Cuomo). Also, at that time, she will be held partly responsible for Obama’s record, which has been a failure with respect to foreign policy. Finally, Hillary has always been a polarizing figure, disliked by large numbers of both conservatives and independents
At the other end of the spectrum is Sarah Palin. A candidate for Vice-President in 2008, and currently considered a viable candidate for the top office in 2012, she is even more polarizing than Hillary Clinton. She is despised by liberals and progressives, not taken seriously by centrists and a large swath of the Republican party, and is a reliable figure of humor and ridicule on the nighttime talk shows Further, her gaffe proneness, and her lack of intellectual curiosity, makes it unlikely that she could survive a general election. She does have an enthusiastic base of supporters, but it is not large enough to nominate her. While she is keeping her followers guessing, it is unlikely that she will run. Should she do so, it will likely be a brief campaign.
And then there is Michelle Bachman.
She has just announced her candidacy, and is already tied for first place with Mitt Romney who has the advantage of considerable name recognition, the result of his record as a first line contender in 2008.
How is this possible? Comedians have had a field day with Bachmann. Journalists have labeled her a buffoon. To those on the left, she is a cartoon figure, derided by the same elite crowd that have laughed at Sarah Palin. Many have tried to portray her as a Palin clone. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has labeled her as an extremist, and has set her up as the “poster boy” for scaring their followers into donating money.
There are similarities between Bachman and Palin. Both are conservative Republican women, and both are mocked and ridiculed by the left. However the differences stop there. Palin lacks intellectual depth and is basically uneducated about most issues. Her appeals to her supporters tend to be emotional. Bachmann’s approach is far more cerebral. She knows how to fashion an argument, she speaks with eloquence and passion, and her talks are filled with references to books and articles from the entire spectrum of political thought.
In her column in the Washington Post. Jennifer Rubin, has published a glowing interview with Bachmann. Rubin states that her “media image — extreme and excitable --- has missed, or chosen to ignore, the real Michele Bachmann”. Rubin points out that she is “a very disciplined and organized woman … who has the intellectual heft to formulate and defend her positions”.
Republicans need to take her seriously, since she has the skills and temperament necessary for the highest office, as well as the ability to defeat the incumbent. The 55 year old Bachmann is an attorney who has practiced tax law. She has enormous energy, is Intelligent, charismatic, and attractive, is knowledgeable about a wide range of issues and is a quick study with respect to the rest. When Chris Wallace asked her in an interview if she was a “flake”, her calm and measured response showed that she was anything but. And she is fully capable of expanding her base as the electorate learns who she really is.
Bachmann came to conservatism through personal experience. She worked for the election of Jimmy Carter, but was later turned off by his record in office. And she became disillusioned by the anti-Americanism of some leftist intellectuals.
Matthew Continetti, a highly respected commentator, has published a favorable article in which he points out that “She’s a talented fundraiser who raised $13.5 million for her 2010 reelection campaign. She’s a television star who appropriately tailors her message to her audience, Her combativeness will delight conservatives eager to fight Barack Obama. Her movement credentials—she founded the House Tea Party Caucus—put her at the cutting edge of right-wing politics. And in a primary campaign where authenticity counts, no other candidate has Bachmann’s unique history: an Iowa native who put herself through law school, raised her five children and took in 23 foster children, and has never lost an election for state or federal office”.
At present, the Republicans are split between the populist tea party people, and main stream “business” Republicans. These positions are best represented by Bachman and Romney respectively. However, the party’s major concern is a single one; who can beat Barack Obama?. While Bachman has been identified with the Tea Party wing, her positions are not so far from the mainstream of the GOP. She will succeed in getting the Republican nomination since she is smart enough and articulate enough to win over a majority of the party, while Mitt Romney and the other candidates each have too many negatives.
So if Bachman gets the nomination, how will she do against Barack Obama in the general election? President Obama has several strikes against him. Unlike 2008, he no longer can be all things to all Americans. He now has a record and can’t hide behind flowery but meaningless phrases.
His major Achilles heel is the very high unemployment rate which he had promised to correct. The number of Americans who are not working is even greater than the official numbers, since many have simply given up looking, while others are underemployed.
Obama has successfully pushed for passage of very expensive legislation, presiding over the highest historical level of federal spending, and has done this at the worst possible time.
His health reform legislation, labeled as a measure that the electorate would learn to love, has had the opposite effect as citizens have seen that many of his claims (e.g. no one will lose their present coverage) are simply false.
And finally on foreign policy, Obama ran on a platform of restoring American prestige by being a kinder gentler President than George Bush in dealing with foreign nations, by using engagement and diplomacy to solve our problems, and by downplaying the seriousness of the threat of Islamic jihad. These policies have failed all tests of effectiveness.
Engagement with Iran and Syria have been dismal failures, the leaders of Iran and North Korea laugh at him, he abandoned an ally in Hosni Mubarek, and has failed to support our friends thereby scaring other Arab and European leaders who wonder about the reliability of our nation. Former allies like Turkey are moving away. And his on again off again confused approach to Libya, seems to be a final disillusioning blow. .
Finally, he has suffered losses among some major constituents. A large segment of the Jewish community, those who feel strongly about the need for the existence of a Jewish state, have watched with horror while Obama has put enormous and counterproductive pressure on Israel with no corresponding demands of the Palestinians. He will still garner a majority of Jewish voters, but Jewish enthusiasm, fundraising, and organizational skills, will be greatly diminished. (And there will be comparisons with the fact that Bachmann spent her summer after High School in Israel working on a kibbutz)
Obama still believes that J Street, Tikkun, and their fellow travelers represent the majority view among American Jews, but he is about to learn that these are marginal organizations who are good at self-promotion, but fail to influence the large numbers they claim, and for most Jews simply lack honesty and integrity.
Other groups such as Hispanics are less enthusiastic than in 2008. Further, many who were impressed with his rhetoric have now seen his performance and are feeling chastened. In particular, his left wing base is upset that he has failed to meet their expectations on many social and economic issues. As a result, many of those who supported him in 2008 will be AWOL in 2012.
Most significantly, over the last two years, millions of previously disinterested Americans, scared about our nations decline and angry over government policies, have become involved in politics.. Michele Bachmann knows how to speak to those voters.
So Bachmann will almost certainly win the GOP nomination, and I give her better than an even chance to win the general election. She is smart and capable, and she is willing to attack Obama effectively on the issues without being shrill or irrational. Her timing is right, given the marked and growing resistance to government debt, to taxes, and to Obamacare. Bachmann says that . “They see that Obama just seems to be completely clueless. And everything he’s done has turned to dust. He has the opposite of a Midas Touch”