Why Did Anyone Underrate Bachmann?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 15 2011 10:16 AM

Why Did Anyone Underrate Bachmann?

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Neil King has the latest take on Michele Bachmann , Serious Candidate. Why are we seeing so much of this storyline? Back in March, when Bachmann started floating the idea of a presidential bid, there was already beaucoups evidence that she had a unique hold on a powerful constituency, a bid for a few other constituencies, and more charisma than anyone in the race so far.

So this narrative is already getting stale. Not yet stale: The hysterical "catfight" storyline , in which the fates of Bachmann and Palin are tied to one another like those of Vic and Blood . We can cut to the chase right now and explain why this storyline's so popular.

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Both Palin and Bachmann are attractive women who are great on TV, and people like watching that stuff.

There's a lot more to it. The two of them know how to feed the story, hence the joint fundraiser they did in 2010. The disputes between the two camps are real. Minnesotans I've talked to have said that their first impression of Palin was that she looked like a new Bachmann. But the idea that Bachmann's success is reliant on Palin's, and that she'd collapse if Palin entered, is unfair to Bachmann. The congresswoman has always been more disciplined; she has built a national following while keeping her personal story out of it . The most self-promotional project she's done was not actually a promotion for herself. It was using her name to promote "Fire from the Heartland," a film from "The Undefeated" director Steve Bannon, all about conservative women, not just Bachmann.

Actually, look at the way Bachmann and Palin handled a specific problem. Bachmann did a tour of New Hampshire in May and said, very incorrectly, that the battle of Lexington and Concord had involved Concord, N.H. It was the gaffe reporters were waiting for, but Bachmann admitted it, and joked that she'd made the mistake because New Hampshire, not Manchester, was where people still remembered the battle. (IE, they're more patriotic.) Compare that to Palin making chorizo out of a statement about Paul Revere's ride -- and then claiming that when she talking about him "warning the British" and ringing bells, she was totally right.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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