Bachmann: The Fly in Pawlenty’s Ointment

by Scott W. Johnson

Michele Bachmann was a backbencher advocating conservative causes in the Minnesota senate, where Republicans were a decided minority during her years in office. She continued the role in Congress, where she has yet to achieve a position of political responsibility even though Republicans have gained the House majority. To the extent that she has become a lightning rod as a national figure, she has drawn on her native gifts to turn herself into a fundraising machine. With her Iowa roots and appeal to a conservative base, her moment has come, as a presidential candidate, in the Iowa straw poll and caucuses. What Howard Dean was to Iowa Democrats in the 2004 cycle and Obama was to Iowa Democrats in the 2008 cycle, Bachmann is to Iowa Republicans in this cycle: the Ivory soap candidate, 99 and 44/100 percent pure.

Bachmann is the fly in Tim Pawlenty’s ointment. He has staked everything on Iowa. He is the generic Republican candidate at a time when the generic Republican seems to be what is called for to match up against Obama. Pawlenty thought that a strong gubernatorial record in the state next door would prove enough to break through in Iowa and launch him into the top tier of competitors in New Hampshire. He didn’t factor Bachmann into his calculations.

Bachmann is highly unlikely to secure the Republican presidential nomination, but she is highly likely to derail Pawlenty’s aspirations. Thus the fireworks in last night’s debate.

— Scott W. Johnson is a Minneapolis attorney and contributor to Power Line.