Bach­mann strives to make a mighty leap

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

The hot new ques­tion in the Repub­li­can pri­mary is whether Rep. Michele Bach­mann, a three-term con­gress­woman who has rapidly leapfrogged from leg­isla­tive back-bencher to tea party su­per­star, now can make the jump from the U.S. House to the White House, a gap that hasn’t been cleared since 1880.

Mrs. Bach­mann’s path to the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion is com­plex. She has yet to earn a sig­na­ture leg­isla­tive achieve­ment on Capi­tol Hill, and it’s un­clear whether she can de­velop the sort of cross­over ap­peal needed to build the kind of coali­tion that could win pri­maries and then a gen­eral elec­tion against Pres­i­dent Obama.

“It will be a long shot for Michele Bach­mann,” said Fred Malek, a prom­i­nent fundraiser who now serves as the Repub­li­can Gov­er­nors As­so­ci­a­tion’s fi­nance chair­man.

“She is cer­tainly ar­tic­u­lat­ing a clear and pow­er­ful set of views, and I find her to be an at­trac­tive can­di­date, but by the same to­ken, I don’t be­lieve she has had the chance to get the record of ac­com­plish­ment yet that some of these gov­er­nors have who’ve run states, had to bal­ance bud­gets and had to bring peo­ple to­gether and man­age large en­ter­prises,” he said, al­lud­ing to the can­di­da­cies of the three for­mer gov­er­nors in the race: Mitt Rom­ney of Mas­sachusetts, Tim Paw­lenty of Min­nesota and Jon Hunts­man of Utah. Texas Gov. Rick Perry also is con­sid­er­ing a bid.

Still, Mrs. Bach­mann’s per­for­mance in the New Hamp­shire de­bate last month and the en­su­ing polls give her sup­port­ers and hand­i­cap­pers some rea­son to think she might have the skills and mo­men­tum to be­come the next James Garfield, the last House mem­ber to move di­rectly into the pres­i­dency.

The Se­nate, where Mr. Obama served less than one term, tra­di­tion­ally has been seen as a loftier plat­form for pres­i­den­tial as­pi­ra­tions than the House, but ob­servers say Mrs. Bach­mann should not be un­der­es­ti­mated.

“I think it’s dif­fi­cult, but I think she could get nom­i­nated,” said for­mer Rep. Thomas M. Davis III of Vir­ginia, who ran the Na­tional Repub­li­can Con­gres­sional Com­mit­tee for the 2000 and 2002 elec­tions. “Vot­ers are very un­happy with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, and Michele rep­re­sents their voice to a great ex­tent. Now, whether she can transform from be­ing the voice of the right and the dis­en­fran­chised to a more main­stream can­di­date to com­pete against Obama, that is a more dif­fi­cult tran­si­tion.”

He added, “They laughed at Ron­ald Rea­gan too, but he was able to con­vince peo­ple that he was a safe place to go to vote if you were un­happy with the sta­tus quo.”

Mrs. Bach­mann, 55, who of­fi­cially joined the pres­i­den­tial field with an an­nounce­ment June 27 in Iowa, the state where she was born, im­me­di­ately stands out: She is the only fe­male can­di­date in the race.

The mar­ried mother of five, one­time fos­ter par­ent to 23 chil­dren and for­mer tax lawyer also has shown an abil­ity to raise large sums of money. In her re­elec­tion bid last year, she raised nearly $14 mil­lion, most through small do­na­tions. It is a musthave po­lit­i­cal skill in a field that in­cludes deep-pocket can­di­dates who can tap into their per­sonal for­tunes if they so choose and who have lined up sup­port from some of the big money bundlers who raised mil­lions of dol­lars for Sen. John McCain’s 2008 bid.

But Mrs. Bach­mann’s strength is likely to be her abil­ity to stay on mes­sage, de­liv­er­ing the fiery anti-gov­ern­ment rhetoric that hits home with vot­ers who are an­gry with what they per­ceive as the over­reach of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

So far, her mes­sage is res­onat­ing in Iowa, where a poll from the Des Moines Reg­is­ter shows her run­ning neck and neck with Mr. Rom­ney.

In many ways, Mrs. Bach­mann is tai­lor-made for the Hawk­eye State. Born in Water­loo, she is a Chris­tian who op- at­trac­tive to mi­nori­ties, but es­pe­cially to women. Out here, I don’t think women are threat­ened by her. I think they are en­gaged by her.”

Her path to vic­tory is trick­ier in New Hamp­shire, where the GOP elec­torate tends to be fis­cally con­ser­va­tive and more mod­er­ate-minded on so­cial is­sues.

That means she will be com­pet­ing for a much smaller pool of so­cial con­ser­va­tives there and

“She does well with the fis­cal con­ser­va­tives, she does well with so­cial con­ser­va­tives and she helps bind the tea party to us,” said Kevin McLaugh­lin, the GOP chair­man in Polk County, Iowa. “I think that she is at­trac­tive to in­de­pen­dents. She may be at­trac­tive to mi­nori­ties, but es­pe­cially to women. Out here, I don’t think women are threat­ened by her. I think they are en­gaged by her.”

poses abor­tion and same-sex mar­riage, stances that mesh with many of the evan­gel­i­cal vot­ers who have a big hand in the cau­cuses that kick off the nom­i­na­tion process.

“She does well with the fis­cal con­ser­va­tives, she does well with so­cial con­ser­va­tives and she helps bind the tea party to us,” said Kevin McLaugh­lin, the GOP chair­man in Polk County, Iowa. “I think that she is at­trac­tive to in­de­pen­dents. She may be must broaden her ap­peal to mod­er­ates and in­de­pen­dents if she hopes to do well in the nation’s first pri­mary.

“There are a lot of can­di­dates go­ing for the evan­gel­i­cals and so­cial con­ser­va­tives, so she is go­ing to have to make her case to them that she is the most electable and then she has to broaden her spec­trum and ap­peal to the fis­cal con­ser­va­tive wing of the party,” said Steve Duprey, a Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee mem­ber from New Hamp­shire.

She is still a rel­a­tive un­known in New Hamp­shire and is play­ing catch-up to sev­eral of the other cam­paigns, some of which have had some sem­blance of a ground op­er­a­tion in place for months, or in Mr. Rom­ney’s case, years.

“The big­gest hur­dle is that she is start­ing late and a lot of the top-notch work­ers and cam­paign ac­tivists are di­vided up into other camps,” Mr. Duprey said, adding that a lot of first­time pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates don’t un­der­stand that the “first time you run, you have to do hun­dreds of town-hall meet­ings and liv­ing-room par­ties.”

Dante Scala, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of New Hamp­shire, sug­gested that Mrs. Bach­mann’s path to vic­tory could come di­rectly from the 1996 play­book of con­ser­va­tive com­men­ta­tor Pat Buchanan, whose pop­ulist mes­sage and fiery ora­tory pro­pelled him to a sur­prise vic­tory.

“If she can con­sol­i­date most of the very con­ser­va­tive vot­ers in the state, and get some help from ei­ther Paw­lenty or Hunts­man in split­ting the cen­trist, some­what con­ser­va­tive, vote with Rom­ney,” she could have an im­pact, Mr. Scala said. “That said, one dan­ger is that the bet­ter she does in Iowa, the more that N.H. vot­ers might rally around Rom­ney as the an­tiBach­mann can­di­date.”

CBS NEWS VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

ON MES­SAGE: Rep. Michele Bach­mann, Min­nesota Repub­li­can, is “a long shot” to be the GOP nom­i­nee but “is cer­tainly ar­tic­u­lat­ing a clear and power ful set of views,” fundraiser Fred Malek said.

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