Update: Michele Bachmann announced she's running for president in Iowa Monday, insisting that her campaign is a serious one: "Now I seek the presidency--not for vanity, but because America is at a crucial moment." She presented herself as someone who could unite the different factions of the Republican Party: "We can win in 2012 and we will. Our voice has been growing louder and stronger. And it is made up of Americans from all walks of life like a three-legged stool... It's the peace-through-strength Republicans--and I'm one of them. It's fiscal conservatives--and I'm one of them. And it's social conservatives--and I'm one of them. It's the Tea Party movement and I'm one of them."
Original Post: Fox News' Chris Wallace got himself into a bit of trouble Sunday when he asked Michele Bachmann, "Are you a flake?" The angry response from viewers pushed Wallace to apologize in a special web video. Monday morning, she'll formally enter the presidential race, as she's indicated she would do for months now. In fact, she'll open her campaign by challenging President Obama on his flakiness--declaring, "In February, 2009, President Obama was very confident that his economic policies would turn the country around within a year. He said: 'A year from now, I think people are going to see that we're starting to make some progress. If I don't have this done in three years, then there's going to be a one-term proposition.' Well, Mr. President, your policies haven't worked. ... And so, Mr. President, We Take You at Your Word!"
Michele Bachmann is incessantly compared to Sarah Palin, who, until recently, has been a higher-profile potential 2012 candidate. One of the ways in which Bachmann comes out looking the strongest against Palin is the question of flakiness. As Palin routinely cancels appearances at the last minute, Bachmann's detractors have been hoping against hope for months that the Minnesota congresswoman was not serious about a presidential campaign. But clearly, she was.
James Fallows picks up on some subtle clues that Bachmann is getting ready for prime time. For starters, she's dramatically changed her appearance--"and in a much more sophisticated way than what we see in the evolution of Sarah Palin's appearance through that same period." As evidence, he compares her 2008 appearance on Hardball (left) to her look Sunday on Face the Nation (right). Her hair and makeup are softer, her clothing is more flattering.
And on Face the Nation, Fallows says, Bachmann demonstrated skill at staying on message.
She showed that she is an absolute genius at the established political technique of "giving the answer you want to give, no matter what the question was." Schieffer reeled off a list of whopper-scale false claims she had made--for instance, that Obama had approved "only one" offshore drilling permit, when in fact he'd approved hundreds. Her response, every time, was some variant on "the real question is why President Obama has misled us." ...
If you have only this one trick in your array of responses, eventually this will be what the press constantly harps on. But it is a part of a big-time politician's arsenal, and she showed that she knows how to use it.
This is where Wallace made his mistake, The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf says. Wallace's question was "faux-confrontation"--not really tough, but "a softball question, because the answer is, 'I am most certainly not--here is a list of my accomplishments that I've rehearsed hundreds of times in my life.'" Friedersdorf continues, "And a flake is someone who commits to something but doesn't follow through. That isn't the knock against Bachmann. Her critics think that she's a right-wing nut job." Wallace, he says, should have challenged her on her blatantly factually inaccurate statements.
Bachmann introduced Iowa voters to her (mostly Democratic) Iowan relatives at a rally Sunday night, The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny reports. "I need you!" Bachmann told the crowd of a couple hundred. "You will be the ones who will determine who will lead this great nation in the future." She talked about how she cried when she had to move to Minnesota when she was 12, "But in my heart, this was home." So far, Iowans have got her back. A Des Moines Register poll released Sunday shows Bachmann in second place among the state's voters with 22 percent, a single point behind well-financed frontrunner Mitt Romney.
A 73-year-old rally attendee told Politico's James Hohmann, “From what I’ve seen of her on TV, she’s pretty well organized and has her ducks in a row. ... She’d make a good president. I shouldn’t say this, but probably better than [Sarah] Palin would.”