Chris Saxman: Bachmann Overdrive Edition
Cold Fusion HQ has gone on the record in stating that she will not win the presidency as it thinks it is just not going to happen. Disclosure – HQ has not endorsed or given money to any campaign.
Can she win the GOP nomination? Yes. She can.
Can she win the general election? Yes. She can.
Headquarters just simply thinks neither will happen.
Before Bachmann supporters get all jazzed up about HQ’s view on her candidacy, let’s try to look at this objectively.
Positives – Michele Bachmann is very intelligent as witnessed with her degree from William and Mary Law School. She is a prolific fundraiser, is a fighter and is solidly conservative. She is very telegenic and is getting much better in her media appearances. She brings a breath of fresh air energy that is in significant demand in the GOP nomination fight. Bachmann has also been elected three times to the US House after serving in the Minnesota Senate. While relatively inexperienced at the federal level, she has 70% name ID in Iowa at this point. Plus, her story of being a small business person and foster mother can build a compelling narrative.
Negatives – Congresswoman Bachmann finished 9 points behind GOP nominee John McCain in 2008 in her own district. In 2010, the Great Wave of the GOP, she barely cracked 50% in winning her re-election. This was the first time in her three runs for Congress in which she broke 50%. Those numbers are a problem and are important as the GOP considers who can win in 2012. She has a number of statements that will be difficult to explain away with multiple opponents and the press pointing them out on a regular and tiring basis. More than one source has told HQ about VERY high staff turnover in the DC office.
History – Incumbent presidents have only lost three times in the last 80 years. All three of them had primary challenges from within their own party. The GOP has a track record of selecting the candidate who finished second last time. It’s a subconscious conservative, traditional behavior. There were three legitimate claims on #2 in 2008 – Romney, Huckabee and Palin. Romney literally finished second but Huckabee kept running after Romney dropped out even though the race was settled. It’s an uphill climb for anyone who did not finish second.
Reagan and Thatcher comparisons.
Republicans are constantly looking for another Reagan or Thatcher, right?
Let’s go there.
Ronald Reagan was a successful two term governor of California and ran for the presidency three times. In 1976, he was the anti-establishment candidate who almost beat incumbent President Gerald Ford at the GOP convention. He then became nominee in 1980 and won the presidency. He built a national coalition that literally redrew the electoral map in the United States. It took time for that to happen.
Margaret Thatcher, interestingly like Bachmann, was/is a tax attorney. Thatcher was first elected to Parliament in 1959. She built her credentials among her peers in the Conservative Party becoming its elected leader in 1975. Four years later she was elected Prime Minister. It took time for that to happen.
Fast Forward to Iowa.
Bachmann will do very well in Iowa unless Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin get in the race. If either or both get in, they will take social conservative votes away from Bachmann. You must finish in the top three in Iowa to have any momentum going into New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada and Florida. You need to have the money and substantive ground game in all of those states to have a chance of winning the nomination. That’s why the silver medalist does get the gold the next time around. It takes time for all of that to happen.
HOWEVER – Like the Bachman Turner Overdrive songs of the 1970s – “You Aint See Nothing Yet” and “Taking Care of Business” – Congresswoman Bachmann could do like Minneapolis based Mary Tyler Moore did and “Turn the World on With Her Smile”.
It’s just not likely to happen.
The narrative that will be needed to keep the media tuned in driving favorable free and earned media necessary to counter the pro-Obama media will require, as the book title “Game Change” suggests, something of a game change.
The GOP needs a game changing move and so will Obama. But the GOP is conservative by nature and will look for that in the VPOTUS selection. The game change the GOP has for now is that of the top three candidates in the Des Moines Register poll from last week one was female and one was minority.
That’s enough for the subconscious of most primary GOP voters for now. As other polls have suggested, the GOP voter is first and foremost looking for a winner. Finishing nine points behind McCain in your own district is not a good narrative maker in the primaries.
Bachmann’s best path to the presidency is a silver medal in 2012 primary states and then become the heir apparent in 2016. Worked for Reagan. And McCain. And Dole. And Bush I. And Nixon. And probably Romney.
Column by Chris Saxman