Michele Bachmann has a stalker. It's a stalker that doesn't move and says nothing. It only sits on her desk and reminds her that she has two weeks until the Ames Iowa Straw Poll. Most people don't get stalked by a calendar, but Bachmann feels its presence every time she enters her office.
Time is not a luxury for Representative Bachmann; it's a currency she lacks.
After months of chasing headlines that appeal to voters on the far right, she now has to embrace ideas that will appeal to moderate voters in an equally vocal way. She has to show the moderate members of the Republican Party that she can represent their interests as well as the Tea Party's. Unfortunately, many of the positions she has taken, like her refusal to compromise in the debt ceiling debate, are opposite of the desires of many in the center of the Republican Party. It's hard to turn a "no" into a "qualified no" in only two weeks.
Assuming Michele Bachmann has a chance to get back to the center fast, how does she do it?
She needs to do three things well:
- First, walk back from her hard right positions, if only a little.
- Next, get an organization in place to show she's serious.
- Finally, learn to polish her message so that it will reach the most people.
Bachmann was one of two candidates to sign "The Marriage Vow" from the fundamentalist Christian group The FAMiLY Leader. The other candidate was Rick Santorum, whose candidacy is an afterthought in this election cycle. Bachmann needs to spend some time explaining exactly what she supported in the document and why. One gets the sense that Bachmann's foot rests uneasy near the precipice that is her mouth. She's only one gaffe away from alienating a large segment of reasonable people who don't support intolerant positions. She needs to step away from these positions enough to put people at ease with her.
She needs to spend some time in Iowa rallying support for her cause, but she also needs to get a strong organization in place there. A straw poll is an excellent opportunity to show that one is a serious candidate. It's also an excellent opportunity to look like someone who is overexposed to television cameras and microphones, but has no real support. The verdict on the Bachmann campaign is two weeks away.
In many ways, Bachmann's messaging resembles a sledgehammer. That's a fine tool for demolishing things, but it isn't employed in building things. If she wants real grassroots support, she'll need to do some building. Saying no is acceptable, but people also want to know when a candidate will say yes. She will need to eliminate that perception if she hopes to stay competitive in the Ames Iowa Straw Poll. If she fails, it will invite bigger candidates into the race.
Can Michele Bachmann come back to the center enough to win?
She probably has made it too far to the right to be a real challenger in this election cycle. Her base will see her obstinate positioning as a good thing. That base isn't big enough to win the Republican nomination for president. Her best hope is to use this run as a step to a more prominent office like a senator or governor. It was a nice try, but the weights necessary to balance the scale aren't available.
Do you support Bachmann's campaign?
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