Your Own Personal Bachmann

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 8 2011 10:29 AM

Your Own Personal Bachmann

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Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

DES MOINES - Ryan Lizza's profile of Michele Bachmann, who looks more and more like the winner of the coming Ames Straw Poll, is well worth reading. The goofy color from Bachmann, her husband, and her campaign team seemed to get the most attention when the piece went live yesterday, but what I found fascinating was the not-so-subtle portrait of Bachmann as a dissembler whose biography re-shapes to fit whatever voters like. For example:

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Standing in front of the red brick Snowden House, a local landmark built in an Italianate style, she declared, “Everything I need to know, I learned in Iowa.” The crowd cheered. She added, “I grew up here in Iowa.” During her first campaign for Congress, in 2006, her official biography noted that “Michele grew up in a broken home in Anoka, Minnesota."
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For another example, the story of how she won her state Senate nomination at the 2000 Minnesota GOP convention.

A 2009 column by George F. Will, for example, says that “on the spur of the moment” some Bachmann allies suggested nominating her. But she already had a long history of political activism—the Carter and Reagan campaigns, her anti-abortion and education activism, her school-board race—and she had been targeting [Senator Gary] Laidig for a year. According to an article in the Stillwater Gazette, on October 6, 1999, Bachmann was talking about running against Laidig months before she went to the convention. “I tried to present information to Senator Laidig on Profile of Learning, he was not interested,” she said. “And I told him that if he’s not willing to be more responsive to the citizens, that I may have to run for his seat.” She told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that she had decided to run against Laidig a year earlier.

Bachmann comes across as a pol with the very Obama-esque ability to remake herself for slightly different audiences. She lacks the 2007 Obama's ability to win over even people who held the opposite beliefs; she's more able to be one kind of conservative to the home-school movement, and another type to Tea Partiers.

As I drove out of the airport today, the very first political sign I saw was a Bachmann sign. Sort of. It was a promo for the Steve Bannon film Fire From the Heartland, a 2010 study of conservative woman that has a large focus on Bachmann. The original posters didn't put her front and center, but this billboard, located prominently on the way to West Des Moines, portrayed a smiling Bachmann looming over a cornfield.

Meanwhile, Rasmussen Reports puts out its first Iowa poll.

Michele Bachmann - 22%
Mitt Romney - 21%
Ron Paul - 16%
Rick Perry - 12%
Tim Pawlenty - 11%
Newt Gingrich - 5%
Herman Cain - 4%
Jon Huntsman - 2%

The big takeaway: "Overall, just 23% of likely caucus participants believe that Republicans in Congress have done a good job representing GOP values in recent years, while 67% believe their representatives have lost touch with the party base." That's the Bachmann base, the people who have no problem whatsoever with a member of Congress who can't point to accomplishments recently. They want opposition, not passed bills.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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