Let's Defend Ed Rollins

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 19 2011 4:25 PM

Let's Defend Ed Rollins

Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images

CONCORD, NH - DECEMBER 14: Republican political strategist Ed Rollins speaks after being announced by Republican Presidential hopeful former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee as his National Campaign Chairman December 14, 2007 in Concord, Hampshire. Huckabee, riding impressive poll numbers, is on a three day swing through the Granite State with actor Chuck Norris. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

I'm afraid I joined the Twitter pile-on earlier today when I saw that Ed Rollins had apparently talked down the electoral propects of Michele Bachmann, the candidate he once managed and still consults for. Here is what Rollins actually said on MSNBC:

I think Michele, which always was the game plan, if she somehow for some reason could win Iowa, then she could get another look. Right now, she's competing hard in Iowa. She doesn't have the ability or the resources to go beyond that, Iowa, at this point and time, where Perry and Romney, with lots of money can go into South Carolina, Arizona, Florida and other places.

This is just objectively true. There's no path to the nomination for Bachmann without a win in her neighboring state of Iowa, just as there turned out to be no paths to the nomination for Dick Gephardt in 2004 and John Edwards in 2004/2008 without wins in Iowa. There is a path to the nomination for the much better-funded, better-polling, more-experienced frontrunners, Romney and Perry. At this point, Romney's path to the nomination almost anticipates a loss in Iowa. A win there would make it easier to grind away Perry's momentum in the next three states. The next-best Iowa situation for Romney is probably Bachmann in first, him in second, and a Perry who organized late and had to waste a lot of time on defense coming in third.

But there is no hypothetical wherein Bachmann loses Iowa and has the juice and fundraising network to continue on to the next three. If Perry wins there, he is the Tea Party's candidate, and she is extinct; if Romney wins, Perry's still the best vehicle for the anti-Romney faction. Now: Could Rollins have said something like "Michele Bachmann is Joan of Arc reborn, and if she loses all of the primaries, caucuses and conventions, she'll still be the nominee?" Sure, but that would have been nonsense. We hacks are punishing Rollins for being honest.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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