Huntsman's Independent Dreams, Bachmann's Meds

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 5 2013 10:26 AM

Huntsman's Independent Dreams, Bachmann's Meds

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Jon Huntsman and Michele Bachmann greet each other prior to a debate at Constitution Hall on Nov. 22, 2011, in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

I'm coming out very shortly with a review of Double Down: Game Change 2012, the irritatingly titled campaign tell-all. Though I dreaded reliving that race as much as anyone, I would never deny the deep reporting of John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, and bow before the bizarre scoopage they've shown off here.

Two stories that stand out but didn't make it into the review:

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Bachmann's brain. The authors confirm not just that Rep. Michele Bachmann suffered from migraines, but that she had one the night before the Ames, Iowa, debate.

The candidate was lying in the dark in her hotel in the fetal position, trying to ward off an intracranial onslaught. A doctor was placed on standby. A hospital was notified. A hefty dose of drugs was obtained and administered -- and, glory be, the meds worked.

What's stranger about the story: Halperin and Heilemann precede it by reporting that Mitt Romney's "research minions slipped a file to Bachmann's people -- a dossier detailing [Tim] Pawlenty's deviations from conservative orthodoxy as governor ... on the debate stage, Bachmann deployed the Romney-supplied oppo to tear into Pawlenty."

And that's just strange, because Bachmann's attacks on the governor during that debate were about issues she should have known about, given that she served in the Minnesota state Senate when Pawlenty was governor. The only real Bachmann-Pawlenty contretemps—this the day before one of them was expected to win the straw poll (Ron Paul ended up coming second, anyway)—was over a cigarette tax deal.

"When the deal was put together, Governor Pawlenty cut a deal with the special interest groups and he put in the same bill, a vote to increase the cigarette tax as well as the vote that would take away protections from the unborn," claimed Bachmann.

"Congresswoman Bachmann didn't vote for that bill because of a stripping away of pro-life protection," huffed Pawlenty. "She voted for it and is now creating that as the excuse."

This required the incognito trading of an oppo file?

Jon Huntsman's independent dreams. The rumors that Jon Huntsman may have split from the GOP were true. After the Tampa CNN debate, the "Tea Party" debate put on by CNN, Huntsman's family was distraught at how right-wing the audience was. "I want to go independent," said the candidate to a strategist. "I think we should do it sooner than later."

What follows in the book is a hilarious short play about how gormless the "Americans Elect" process was. Huntsman is courted and flattered, with Mike Bloomberg telling him, "You're the embodiment of the perfect independent candidate." Huntsman tells his strategist John Weaver that he's ready to jump. "The trust speech is perfect for this. That's where I'm going to make the announcement," he says. It's up to Weaver to point out that this is insane, and while AE has ballot access it cannot raise money for him, and his whole team will quit. But, you know, maybe they can look again after the New Hampshire primary, as long as Huntsman runs second.

Huntsman got third in New Hampshire.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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