Michele Bachmann: Election 2012 Preview

This article is part of an occasional series of articles looking at the contenders for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has surged to the lead in early Iowa polling, and has suddenly become a real contender for the GOP nomination.

The three-term Congresswoman from Minnesota and head of the House Tea Party Caucus has made a lot of notorious media mistakes – but her recent strong performance in a Republican debate, coupled with more disciplined media interviews, reflect a candidate who is peaking at just the right time.

This series is looking at the contenders through a prism of their communications skills. Since the beginning of the 24/7 media age in 1980, there have been eight presidential elections. The winners of all eight general election races have had the same seven winning traits. Ms. Bachmann has almost all of them.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Ms. Bachmann is good at articulating a clear vision and message that is well-aligned with the concerns of the public. A good example (posted below) comes from her recent interview on CBS’ Face The Nation:

“We know how to create jobs. I have a lot of experience with that and I think that’s what I bring to the table. I understand not only the problem that our economy, I understand the solution for our economy. And we’re on the wrong track – my focus will be on turning the economy around and job creation.”

Is she charismatic? That’s in the eye of the beholder – but her support suggests that many people answer that question in the affirmative. She’s clearly comfortable in her own skin, a trait that voters consistently reward (voters punish candidates who lack a sense of comfort, such as Al Gore, John Kerry, and Mitt Romney.)

Although Ms. Bachmann stays on message, she often goes too far, failing to answer even the most obvious questions (see this March interview from Meet the Press).

When confronted by Face The Nation host Bob Schieffer regarding an inaccurate statement in which Bachmann claimed the Obama Administration had issued only one oil drilling permit (in fact, they had issued more than 200), she would do better to quickly admit the misstatement and move on. Her strategy of sheer evasion isn’t likely to wear well over time.

Ms. Bachmann has committed several high-profile media mistakes, such as stating that some members of Congress are “un-American,” staring into the wrong camera during a high-profile national address, and confusing John Wayne with serial killer John Wayne Gacy. As the expression says, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior – so Ms. Bachmann will likely commit more whoppers along the way.

Still, Michele Bachmann is a strategic candidate who didn’t attract a solid base of support by accident. She’s beatable, yes. But Democrats who dismiss her too easily underestimate her political strengths at their own peril.


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