From: The Wall Street Journal
Who Wins and Who Loses if Bachmann Runs in 2012?
By MICHAEL D. SHEAR
Brian Snyder/Reuters Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a potential Republican candidate for president, holds up a tea bag while speaking in New Hampshire.
Updated Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota seized the media spotlight on Thursday by merely leaking out the possibility that she might — someday, maybe months from now — form an exploratory committee to consider running for president.
The flurry of headlines was a testament to her ability to heighten interest by being dramatic, and even provocative, in her statements. Just a day earlier, for example, she warned against the “black-robed masters” in Iowa. In other words: judges. (The comment came in a speech in which she applauded voters for turning out three members of the Iowa Supreme Court who had voted to legalize gay marriage.)
Ms. Bachmann may yet decide not to run for president this year. But Republican strategists for her potential rivals believe she is serious about mounting a run for the Republican nomination, and they are planning accordingly.
A member of the House of Representatives since 2007, Ms. Bachmann has already built a nationwide network of supporters and donors, largely by championing the conservative causes that have made her popular with the Tea Party movement.
In Iowa, Republicans say she is moving quickly to court state lawmakers and is beginning to assemble the basis of a state operation that might serve to run a primary campaign there. She has met with the chief of the state Republican party as well as with Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican.
In appearances in Iowa this week, Ms. Bachman made no attempt to tamp down the speculation, repeatedly uttering two words: “I’m in!” But in a brief interview, when asked to expound on her remarks, she said: “I’m in to make sure that Barack Obama is a one-term president. I am in, in terms of 2012, to make sure that we do have a rock-solid conservative.”
“I will be making a decision – one way or another – during summer or before summer,” she told The Times’s Jeff Zeleny, but added that she was intrigued by the Iowa Straw Poll to be held in August, where her influence may first be felt.
So who would benefit from Ms. Bachmann’s candidacy? And who would be hurt by it? Here’s a quick rundown:
Tim Pawlenty: The former governor of Minnesota is banking on a good showing in Iowa (a neighboring state) to help catapult him into serious contention and to convince donors that he’s the good bet to win the White House.
Despite being from the same state, Ms. Bachmann does not share a fund-raising base with Mr. Pawlenty, who will appeal to the more traditional, establishment crowd. But if she ends up as the surprise winner in Iowa, much like Mike Huckabee was in 2008, she could easily upset Mr. Pawlenty’s carefully laid plans.
Sarah Palin: If Ms. Bachmann pulls off a victory in Iowa by tapping into the conservative, Tea Party element in the state, the former Alaska governor might cry out: “Hey! That was my plan!”
The two women appear to share a constituency — and a similar attention-getting approach to politics. For now, Ms. Palin has the worldwide celebrity and would probably raise money at a faster clip if she gets into the race.
But Ms. Bachmann may beat her to it. All indications are that Ms. Palin is content to wait months — perhaps into the fall — before deciding whether to jump into the presidential contest. By then, Ms. Bachmann may well have begun to capitalize on her conservative, outsider, antimainstream-media message.
Mike Huckabee: Like Ms. Bachmann and Ms. Palin, Mr. Huckabee is a favorite of social conservatives. But unlike the two women, he has actually proved himself to be a solid vote-getter in Iowa, winning the caucus there in 2008 with his down-home manner and pro-life credentials. (And the last-minute Christmastime ad that seemed to feature a floating white cross behind him didn’t hurt, either.)
But if Ms. Bachmann gets in the race with Mr. Huckabee, both would almost certainly split up the same pool of voters. That could leave each in a trailing position and open up possibilities for Mr. Pawlenty or Mitt Romney to win a larger chunk of the moderate Republican caucus goers.
The Establishment: It’s no secret that establishment Republicans don’t like Ms. Bachmann very much. They have not given her the committee assignments that she wants. Like the Tea Party candidates who were opposed by Washington Republicans during the 2010 midterm elections, she’s an outsider of sorts. So if she runs — and does well — she could become an even bigger thorn in their sides.
The Tea Party: Lots of Republican candidates offer lip service to the Tea Party. Even Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader and the definition of the establishment, has nice things to say about them now.
But Ms. Bachmann is a true champion of their cause. If she gets in the race, they will have a voice at debates, during television interviews, and on the stump around the country. She might not win, but Tea Party activists would certainly like to see her try.
Democrats: Plenty of Democrats would like to see Ms. Bachmann run for president, especially the opposition researchers at the Democratic National Committee. They have already cataloged her statements — many of them designed to be outrageous — and are champing at the bit to paint the Republican party in her image.
The Media: It’s no secret that Ms. Bachmann would probably be very good for newspapers, television stations and blogs. Her statements attract viewers, sell papers and generate clicks.
That’s not to say journalists would roll out the red carpet for Ms. Bachmann and give her an easy ride. Her statements and positions, like those of the other candidates, would probably be heavily scrutinized. But there’s no question that her candidacy would spice up what could be an otherwise bland contest.
Michele Bachmann: It’s hard to see how a Bachmann candidacy could hurt Ms. Bachmann. She’s in a safe Republican district (though redistricting could make her area a bit more competitive.) If she runs and loses, she will have made a national name for herself and raised a lot of money.
True, something could happen to embarrass her on the national stage. But Ms. Bachmann appears unconcerned by that risk, and even oblivious at times to the assessments of her critics.
President Obama: Does Ms. Bachmann’s candidacy help Mr. Obama? That probably depends on what happens if she runs. If she were to defy expectations and actually win the nomination, that’s probably good for Mr. Obama since her appeal is largely aimed at the very conservative wing of the Republican party, not at the moderates and independents who usually help a candidate win the election.
On the other hand, Ms. Bachmann has the potential to energize and motivate and keep alive the Tea Party movement. If she serves as a unifying voice for the leaderless group of voters, she could help channel their anger into electoral action — even if it’s not ultimately on her own behalf.
Like Ms. Palin, Ms. Bachmann could eventually become an unelected kingmaker, endorsing one of her rivals and by doing so confer a legitimacy in the eyes of the Tea party. That could end up helping the Republican nominee, and hurting Mr. Obama.