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Michele Bachmann: The Tea Party Rising Star

Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann is rapidly rising to the top of the Republican pack. Capturing the nomination is her number one goal, but to move into the White House, she will have to appeal to a broad spectrum of American voters.

Image by George Cassutto
Copyright 2011
Used with permission

For those of us following the 2012 presidential election, a fresh new face is appearing on television and computer screens. She’s often called a “Tea Party darling” because of her leadership role in getting the conservative agenda into the mainstream of American politics. Of whom do I write? Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann, that’s who. She declared that she is seeking the office of president of the United States during the first Republican debate, and she performed admirably in that appearance.  What political observers want to know is: can Michele Bachmann earn the nomination of her party? And if so, Americans will have to decide if she is able to turn her campaign speech into reality when she says, “Let’s send Barack Obama back to Hawaii!”

Bachmann has some negatives to overcome between now and the Republican caucuses and primaries in the winter of 2012. She is prone to verbal gaffes and twisting of history to suit her own conservative agenda. She claimed that Lexington and Concord took place in New Hampshire while campaigning there, and she maintains that John Quincy Adams was one of the Founding Fathers when he was actually a small boy at his father’s knee when the nation was founded in 1776. She was even challenged by a 16-year old government student to a debate on US Civics and History, a proposal she has ignored. Bachmann may be in a lose-lose situation there. If she agrees to debate the bright high schooler, she might be shown to be woefully ignorant in the areas of government and history, a liability for a federal lawmaker. If she refuses, it looks like she’s afraid to go face-to-face with a bright young person.

Bachmann’s political views have been characterized as extreme towards the conservative side, possibly “outside the mainstream” of American political thought. Now that she is moving into the national political spotlight, she seems to be moderating her rhetoric to a degree. Last year Bachmann accused President Obama of being “anti-American.” More recently, when asked to explain that statement, she qualified it by saying the President “has no idea how to run the economy.” She is well aware that to capture the White House, she will have to appeal to voter’s beyond her Tea Party base, reaching out to the moderates and independents that helped Barack Obama defeat John McCain in 2008.

Bachmann was asked by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, “Are you a flake?” The journalistic integrity of Wallace’s question was later debated by his peers on cable news talk shows.  Most gave Bachmann high marks for the temperance of her response. His question bolstered her appearance as a real contender for the nomination. Maybe that was his intention. Bachmann is often compared to another conservative Fox News contributor: Sarah Palin.

Bachmann’s resume is impressive. According to her House biography web page, she holds an LLM in Tax Law from William and Mary College. According to her own response to Wallace, she holds a “post-doctoral degree in economics.” Since Palin does not appear to be joining the fray for the 2012 Republican nomination, Michele Bachmann seems to be filling the void left by Palin’s absence. If she can rise above the apparent mediocrity of front runner Mitt Romney, she may have the chance to face Barack Obama in the fall of 2012. Democrats would welcome nothing more, but they underestimate Bachmann at their own peril.

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