"In Sicily, women are more dangerous than shotguns."Monday evening, I sat down to check out the first real debate between Republicans vying for their party's nomination for president. Seven candidates were mixing it up, agreeing mainly on only one issue: they can all defeat Obama. Right -- enough with the rhetoric.
-- from The Godfather
My main reason for tuning in was to hear Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). He has been the face of libertarian ideas for decades and presents a fresh outlook on how to handle America's policy-making. I won't pretend to agree with even a majority of what Paul stands for, but I definitely respect him for not being afraid to be the one voice in the wilderness for some time. He was the Tea Party before it was cool.
I also was at least curious to see if Mitt Romney had wiped that smug smile off his face after his 2008 debacle (he hadn't) or if Tim Pawlenty / Rick Santorum were as good as advertised (they weren't). The one surprise candidate among the field? Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN).
Let me cast aside any doubt in your minds: I noticed how ridiculously beautiful she is and I was mesmerized. So what? Looks only take a person so far -- and there better be some substance beyond her physical appeal. Regardless of what generalizations people cast, men don't really vote based on looks.
So, does Bachmann have the 'stuff' to win the Republican nomination? The presidency, even? In answering this question, several other questions need to be addressed.
|Who wouldn't vote for me?|
2. Can she appeal to the average American? This question is always difficult to answer, but Bachmann has a few qualities about her that are definite positives. Though she is a lawyer by trade, Bachmann didn't hold an elected position until 2000, serving in Minnesota's State Legislature until elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2006.
In her personal life, many Americans will be able to identify with the fact that she was a working mother who not only raised her own five children, but took in 23 foster children.
Bachmann is also a woman with considerable financial assets, but her net worth is still significantly below that of the average members of Congress. Also, according to disclosures to the Federal Election Commission, Bachmann has two substantial loans -- business and home -- totaling approximately $750,000.1
3. Does Bachmann have the ability to generate the necessary funding to make a successful bid for the presidency? Absolutely. In the election cycles of 2006 and 2008, Bachmann received contributions of around $2 million and close to $4 million, respectively. Those numbers were well above the trend line for what the average House member raised. In 2012, Bachmann raked in over $12 million -- an astounding figure for a House member, let alone one who had just finished her second term.2
Not only is Bachmann capable of bringing in large quantities of cash, but she's receiving the money from individuals donations. Only 3% of 'hard money' contribtions came from political action committees (PACs).3 The fact that individuals are behind the bulk of donations means they believe in her and interest groups probably have little influence.
4. What potential problems could thwart her chances? History is not on her side. She's a woman. I say this in the kindest way possible, however many Americans are still critical of a woman being the chief executive of the United States. Hillary Clinton is the only woman to make a serious run for president and she had more name recognition than Bachmann could build in two lifetimes.
Another potential pitfall: lack of foreign policy and executive experience. Though a member of a few subcommittees on intelligence, four years in Congress hardly qualifies someone to be a foreign policy expert, particularly in the House, which deals more with domestic and fiscal policy. There's a reason that no one has made a jump from the House directly to the presidency since James Garfield in 1880 (he was the only one to do it).4 Successful presidential candidates tend to be senators or governors directly before ascending to the White House.
5. Is Bachmann consistent in what she stands for? Fiscal responsibility was one of Bachmann's rallying cries and according to statistics from 2010, she asked for no earmarks in Congress,5 consistent with the pledge found on her House website. No fault there.
In fact, in examining the voting record of Bachmann, she's quite consistent on voting 'no' for excessive government spending, including multiple measures on extension of unemployment benefits, limitations in some military spending, and welfare/poverty programs.6
Voting records and interest group ratings also conincide with Bachmann's positions with respect to: immigration, abortion, education, and some coordination with respect to energy policies. If you're a conservative, she's a candidate to consider.
6. How does she stack up against the Republican field? Fairly well. Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum showed no signs of life in the debate. Ron Paul isn't mainstream enough. Newt Gingrich can't seem to commit to running and no one seems to take Herman Cain seriously. That only leaves Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin (who probably isn't running).
If Romney tries to buy the Iowa caucuses again, Bachmann is definitely in a position to compete. It further helps her cause that she didn't officially enter the race until the night of the debate. A recent examination of the GOP field by Gallup looked at the name recognition and overall "positive intensity score" of Republican candidates had Bachmann making a strong initial showing.
Additionally, a new Rasmussen poll showed Bachmann trailing only Romney in the race. According to the figures, 33% of those polled preferred Romney, with Bachmann locking down a solid 19%.7 Bachmann's numbers increased dramtically both because of her performance and the fact that she officially entered the race.
So, is Bachmann for real? The answer is yes. She has momentum, candidate appeal, consistency, and the backers. The Republican field is weak and her only significant challenge among conservatives tanked horribly in 2008. I haven't seen a disaster like Romney since the Edsel. That's how bad he was four years ago.
My only hope now is that Bachmann wins the nomination with a running mate named "Turner." The campaign slogan could be "Takin' Care of Business."
1Open Secrets - Michelle Bachmann, 2009
2Open Secrets - Michell Bachmann, R-MN
4Office of the Clerk, United States House of Representatives, Art and History, "Historical Biographical Information"
5111th Congress Earmarks
6Project Vote Smart - Michele Bachmann
7Shahid, Aliyah. "Michele Bachmann, Presidential candidate, surges ...", The New York Daily News, June 16, 2011