Michele Bachmann’s Odd Tea Party Response

In a response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address last night, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) offered a response from the Tea Party that can only be described as bizarre.

First, she didn’t look straight into the camera. According to CNN’s Sam Feist, Ms. Bachmann had two cameras in the room – one was the Tea Party camera, the other was the network camera. She chose to look at the Tea Party camera.

I watched Ms. Bachmann’s speech live, and was too distracted by the strange optics of her response to fully focus on her content. Based on commentary about her response both on-line and on-the-air, it seems I was far from alone – her (lack of) eye contact was the first thing almost everybody remarked upon.

Since viewers watching the feed from the Tea Party camera weren’t as likely to hold Ms. Bachmann’s slight lack of eye contact against her, I’d argue she should have prioritized the network camera. It’s true that her core audience is the Tea Party, but it’s likely more Tea Partiers will see her response through clips on mainstream news broadcasts (including Fox News) than through video captured by the Tea Party’s camera. And that means they’ll see Ms. Bachmann’s performance referred to as amateurish on many of those news broadcasts.

Second, the camera operators weren’t prepared for Ms. Bachmann’s use of PowerPoint. She should have given a script to the network cameraman and marked the spots to widen the shot before the new slides appeared. That way, the public would have taken in the full slide the moment it appeared instead of a mere corner of the slide.

Finally, what was that chair doing behind her? She appeared to be standing the whole time, so the chair created yet another visual distraction.

Ms. Bachmann’s performance is a perfect example of a spokesperson whose message gets obscured by poor optics.

Related: The Ten Worst Video Media Disasters of 2010
Note: My full analysis of the State of the Union will appear here – and on Bulldog Reporter’s PR website – early Friday morning.