Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Just another day in the rise and eventual fall of Michele Bachmann

Let's scan the headlines:

-- Bachmann surges into the lead nationally, according to a new PPP poll, 21-20 over Romney, though a new WSJ/NBC poll has her a strong second to Romney but still well back, 30-16. The takeaway, I think, is that Romney is still the frontrunner but seems to be hitting a ceiling, and a fairly low one at that, while Bachmann has emerged as the most viable alternative. The different results here could be attributed to the fact that the latter poll includes Perry, who has not yet entered the race. Bachmann stands a chance in a one-on-one against Romney but would have much more trouble winning a three-or-more-way race, particularly with a strong conservative like Perry draining her support.

-- According to The Daily Caller, Bachmann "frequently suffers from stress-induced medical episodes that she has characterized as severe headaches. These episodes, say witnesses, occur once a week on average and can 'incapacitate' her for days at time. On at least three occasions, Bachmann has landed in the hospital as a result." The sources are anonymous, but, needless to say, Bachmann's health is a concern -- or at least should be.

-- Basically, Bachmann appears to suffer from severe migraines. But she says they wouldn't be a problem: "'Let me be abundantly clear -- my ability to function effectively has never been impeded by migraines and will not affect my ability to serve as commander in chief,' [she] said in a statement. She described the headaches as 'easily controlled with medication.'" 

-- ABC News's Brian Ross, a big-time reporter, tried to ask Bachmann about her condition at a campaign rally in South Carolina yesterday. According to Michael Crowley at Time's Swampland, who witnessed the violent incident: "Ross dashed after Bachmann, repeatedly asking whether she had ever missed a House vote due to a migraine. She ignored him. Ross pursued her into a parking area behind the stage. Her aides grew alarmed. When Ross made a beeline for the white SUV waiting to carry Bachmann away, two Bachmann men pounced on him, grabbing and pushing him multiple times with what looked to me like unusual force. In fact, I have never seen a reporter treated so roughly at a campaign event, especially not a presidential one."

-- Crowley makes a good point: "To zoom out for a minute, what's most interesting here isn't Bachmann's headaches. She's still a long way from the nuclear football, and unless the story takes some darker turn, I don't see why a seemingly manageable battle with migraines would be a game changer for her candidacy.
The more pertinent question may have to do with Bachmann's preparedness for the campaign circus. Running for President, at least in its early retail stage, requires a willingness to answer inconvenient questions in settings more chaotic and unpredictable than the cable-television interviews to which she is accustomed. The trail is a messy place where reporters will swarm you. It's definitely not always fun -- and can be enough to give even a seasoned candidate a migraine. The question raised this afternoon is whether Bachmann is ready for it."

-- I would say that while I think Bachmann has fairly impressive political skills, just as, say, Palin does, and can hold her own on the talk-show circuit, she, like both Palin and Romney, tends to want to avoid reporters whenever possible, and, more to the point, avoid having to answer uncomfortable questions that may require her to deviate from her talking points. I'm not saying she's not ready for it, but this sort of thing doesn't play well with the media, particularly those on the campaign trail and who demand, if only to do their jobs, more than mere talking points, and is communicated to the public as a major defect (which it is). Thuggery, of the kind Ross was exposed to, hardly qualifies as a suitable response. We know she's an extremist, but running away from reporters and using goons as a shield puts her in Palin territory. The media often excuse extremism, particularly extremism of the right, but they don't excuse being excluded. This could turn out to be a major problem for her.

There you go. Another day, a heavy dose of Bachmann all over the media. In the absence of Palin, she's, well, Palin, the sexiest (in media terms) thing going. She's not just crazy, she's doing well in the polls, fast becoming a viable contender for the GOP presidential nomination.

Attention is being paid. Understandably so.

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