It has been noted that Rep. Michele Bachmann, the Tea Party Caucus leader making her play for the presidency of the United States, had to do a few things differently — such as make fewer questionable coments and begin backing off of misstatements and unpopular positions — in order to claw her way back into contention in the 2012 GOP nomination race. But the one aspect where she has shined throughout the early months of the presidential campaign and in the debates has been her ability to garner attention and simply make her opponents look less determined and capable. At the Fox News/Google Republican Presidential Debate in Orlando, Bachmann did none of the things she needed to get back into the mix.
Watching the congresswoman’s performance, one might have been reminded of Marlon Brando’s Oscar-winning performance in “On The Waterfront.” It is easy to imagine Bachmann saying Terry Malloy’s lines: ” I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody.”
Bachmann’s lackluster performance at the Fox News debate was a poor follow-up to the dynamic attack machine she was in the previous debate, the CNN/Tea Party Express contest in Tampa where she not only nailed Gov. Rick Perry, the frontrunner in all the national preference polls, on his 2007 dictatorial mandate ordering young girls to be vaccinated with the HPV drug Gardisil, but also made certain everyone knew about his seeming too-close ties with the drug manufacturer, Merck. (Although it is true she destroyed her advantage by linking the drug to mental retardation in an ill-conceived interview later, she undoubtedly won points for her aggressiveness during the debate itself.)
And when she later said that everybody should be able to keep every penny they earned, subsequently followed by a quick make-up that the government had to take some money upon which to operate, she might have just as well softly closed the door on her campaign. Such an either-or, barely qualified, simplistic view of the way the government should be financed shows an idealistic irresponsibility difficult to miss.
So she could have been a contender. At one point, she truly was, winning polls in Iowa (not to mention the bragging rights only Ames Straw Poll) and getting to within margin-of-error distance of then frontrunner Mitt Romney in the national polls in July and early August. But with Perry’s entrance into the Republican presidential race pulling most of her support base (white, middle class, evangelical) into his polling numbers and a series of headlining gaffes and unpopular statements, the Minnesota congresswoman quickly fell back to single digit poll numbers. Going into the Fox News debate, Bachmann polled only 8 percent support among Republican voters in the latest Rasmussen Reports survey.
Another skewering of Perry and a good showing would have helped her campaign. Neither occurred.
Of course, campaign’s aren’t Oscar-winning scripted movies, either…
Unfortunately for Bachmann, at the end of her poorly performed script, she will not lead her supporters in eventual and ultimate triumph.