Bachmann strategist was right

  • Article by: JILL BURCUM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 10, 2011 - 10:13 PM

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., is seen on the set before the taping of Iowa Public Television's Iowa Press, Friday, May 27, 2011, in Johnston, Iowa. The three-term congresswoman will announce her 2012 plans as soon as next week, and advisers describe her as inclined to get into the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Photo: Charlie Neibergall, Associated Press

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To those who think Michele Bachmann or her new political strategist owe Sarah Palin an apology:
Oh puh-leez.

Bachmann’s strategist, a grizzled Beltway veteran by the name of Ed Rollins, had the audacity to say that Palin isn’t a serious candidate. Why?

Because she hadn’t served out her first term as Alaska’s governor. And she’s spent the past two years as a reality TV star and commentator instead of trying to “gain more substance.”

Rollins stepped on some sensitive toes in the Palin camp, but he’s absolutely right. He doesn’t owe anybody an apology.

And neither does Minnesota’s Sixth District Republican congresswoman, who is likely to announce soon that she’s officially running for president.

This week, a Washington Post political blogger said that Bachmann erred by hiring Rollins, a political insider, and risked offending those looking to her as an outsider. The reality is that translating Brand Bachmann from TV firebrand to presidential campaign will require the kind of skill Rollins has honed through the decades.

And it’s still a long shot.

Bachmann’s blend of fringe politics and religious fundamentalism carries significant risks. It will deliver a certain number of voters, but will make it challenging to capture the vast majority of voters outside this group.

“Is she electable?” is the key question early primary voters will have to decide.

If anybody deserves an apology, it’s Bachmann. She’s unfairly derided as “Palin-lite.”

Actually, Palin is “Bachmann-lite.’’

Say what you will about Bachmann’s politics, but she has cruised to victory three times in her north-suburban district. While Palin is lunching with Donald Trump, Bachmann is out on the hustings raising money for her party.

While Palin ran from her public service job to cash in, Bachmann wanted more responsibility in Congress, seeking high-level committee assignments (though she was turned down by GOP leadership).

Bachmann also can talk knowledgeably about key issues without some staffer having to dump information into her head beforehand. During a 2008 meeting with the Star Tribune Editorial Board, she had a strong grasp of the mortgage meltdown just getting underway at the time.

In a 2010 debate, she trounced Democratic challenger Tarryl Clark, who is no policy slouch herself after having served in a legislative leadership post.

Bachmann’s law degree and an advanced degree in tax law also compare favorably to Palin’s college-hopping, though Palin did complete her undergrad degree.

Pundits still aren’t sure if Palin is serious about a presidential run, despite the recent bus tour. Bachmann has earned the right to have her candidacy — if not her views — taken far more seriously than Palin's.

Jill Burcum is a Star Tribune editorial writer.

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