I have to admit, I have a certain level of respect for Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. Oh, don’t misunderstand me, if she’s elected president, I will flee the country, the continent, and if possible, the planet. I continue to despair that she’s an actual member of Congress, and I weep that she’s a representative from my state, even if she does represent the 6th.
But I will say this for Bachmann: this isn’t a con. This isn’t an act. She isn’t a grifter like Sarah Palin, or a soulless panderer like Mitt Romney. She isn’t calibrating her positions to win her support from the rubes, as so many Republicans — indeed, so many politicians — do.
No, Michele Bachmann really believes what she’s saying, even the lies. Perhaps especially the lies. For Bachmann hews to the George Costanza view — it isn’t a lie if you believe it. And if there’s one thing Bachmann has in spades, it’s belief.
There are two articles out this week profiling the gentlelady from Minnesota, and well there should be; Bachmann’s triumphant performance in the first major GOP debate has vaulted her to near the top of the field. In Iowa, Bachmann is in a virtual tie with Mitt Romney for first place; in Florida, Bachmann has moved into a tie for second, with 17 percent. The person she’s tied with — Sarah Palin — is giving no indication that she intends to run a credible campaign, and Palin’s voters are by their nature Bachmann’s voters too.
I don’t know if Bachmann will be able to survive what is sure to be a brutal vetting process; there are plenty of stories out there that should prevent her from actually being elected president. But I’m not sure they’ll matter to her core group of supporters, who understand that Bachmann is one of them, and who view anything said against her as proof that they are being attacked by their enemies.
In previous years, Bachmann would be an interesting story, but she’d have little chance of winning. Her record is too thin, her positions are too extreme, her chances of winning in November are too remote. The party stalwarts would find a way to deliver the endorsement to a Romney or a Pawlenty or a Perry — someone safe and sober enough not to embarrass the GOP.
But 2010 showed us clearly that all bets are off when it comes to the modern GOP. From Nevada to Alaska to Delaware, Republican kingmakers tried and failed to deliver seats to solid candidates with a good chance of winning. And the rank and file told the kingmakers to stuff it. They decided they’d rather die with Christine O’Donnell than live with Mike Castle. And while Minnesotans know all too well what a bizarre, disturbing, awful president Bachmann would be, I have little doubt that those are the very reasons many Republicans will back her. Will it be enough to deliver to her the nomination? I think she’s got a very good chance. And that says more about what the Republicans have become than anything else I could possibly say.