Monday, June 27, 2011

Michele Bachmann Denies She's a 'Flake'

In a speech in Iowa today, Michele Bachmann officially announced that she's running for president. Bachmann already made that announcement during the June 13th debate. The confusion stems from poor timing on Bachmann's part; she needed to participate in the debate, but she had not planned for her campaign to begin yet. Thus, Bachmann officially entered the race twice.

During yesterday's interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, Wallace asked Bachmann an unusual question: "Are you a flake?" Wallace was essentially asking whether Bachmann, given her history of gaffes and her poor reputation among many in Washington, was actually a serious candidate. Bachmann was offended and said as much, but she remained calm and recited her résumé.

On its own, Wallace's question means little, but it typifies the attitude of the Washington establishment toward Bachmann: They believe she is sort of a joke. Bachmann likely felt Fox News was a safe place for an early interview. If Wallace's dismissive attitude is any indication, Bachmann will find no safe havens anywhere in the traditional news media. It's worth pointing out that Herman Cain, who has never held elective office, is treated with less disrespect than Bachmann.

It's not only journalists who have a dim view of Bachmann. The Republican establishment believes she cannot win a general election and that her nomination would be a supreme embarrassment to the Party. On the other hand, some of the establishment are Mitt Romney supporters who believe a win by Bachmann in Iowa would scare voters into supporting Romney in New Hampshire.

Even so, the higher Bachmann goes, the more pushback she will receive. Unlike Cain, Bachmann has not yet been subjected to much scrutiny. For the moment, Bachmann is enjoying a honeymoon period. She's new to the race and voters are interested in her, and her negative attributes have not yet been put on display. Earlier this year both Herman Cain and Donald Trump experienced similar honeymoons.

Bachmann has seen her poll numbers rise since the debate. The Des Moines Register just released its Iowa Caucus poll. As you can see from our Primaries page, where all Iowa Caucus polls are collected, few other polls have been taken of Iowa. The Des Moines Register is generally considered the best Iowa pollster; most pollsters are national, and few are set up to poll just for this contest. Bachmann did well in this poll, which did not include Sarah Palin or Rick Perry:

06/22 Des Moines Register (Iowa Caucus)
Romney 23
Bachmann 22
Cain 10
Gingrich 7
Paul 7
Pawlenty 6
Santorum 4
Huntsman 2

Note that a single poll means little, and that name recognition is a big factor at this point. Still, numbers like this will attract a lot of attention to the Bachmann campaign. Her honeymoon period is likely to end soon, and she will be subjected to a lot of flak from the media. Time will tell whether she can maintain her composure, as she has thus far.