The Des Moines Register poll showing Republican Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann in a tie for first place with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney among likely Iowa Caucus goers has turned the presidential race on its ear.
At least for the moment.
There are people who follow presidential politics for a living every four years. They told us there were no winners coming out of CNN’s New Hampshire presidential debate, but, had there been one, it might have been Bachmann, who, we were told over and over, exceeded expectations. [Vote now: Can Bachmann win the 2012 GOP nomination?]
What those expectations might have been is anybody’s guess—unless the presidential campaign pool thought she might start howling at the moon or chanting in ancient Aramaic in the middle of answering a question.
The favorable press Bachmann got after the debate helped push her up in the polls. She needs to remember, however, that what the media first makes, it then destroys. [See photos of Michele Bachmann.]
Now that she’s tied for the lead in Iowa, her statements, her voting record, and her public policy positions are going to be held to a stricter standard. She is going to be scrutinized now like she has never been because, let’s face it, the current polls show that in the current presidential race, she could go far. Which means her surge is likely going to come to a quick and perhaps even spectacular end.
Bachmann has a habit—some find it annoying, others endearing—of not answering the questions she’s asked. This is a hot button for the average television reporter, who thinks it’s their job to play “gotcha” with anyone who aspires to the presidency. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the 2012 GOP primary.]
The fact that she is outspoken—even controversial—plays well with the GOP base, especially with the Tea Party voters who want to see real change in Washington. But slogans and sound bites only get you so far. Eventually Bachmann is going to have to present a tax plan, a program for dealing with the national debt, and a concrete program for dealing with the U.S. military incursion into Libya.
That means that, for right or for wrong, she is going to have to take positions on things, which means she may end up losing rather than gaining support in Iowa, New Hampshire, and the other early primary and caucus states. [See a slide show of the 2012 GOP candidates.]
Sure she’s run a couple of tough—and successful—congressional races over the past few years. But running for president is very different from running for Congress—which is probably part of the reason why only one sitting House member—Republican James A. Garfield of Ohio—has ever been elected president.
The more support Bachmann attracts, the more the national press corps will be out for her blood. It’s the nature of the beast—so it’s foolish to expect her numbers to stay where they are.