Race for the White House: Michele Bachmann

Every so often I appear on Sun News to discuss the Presidential election in the U.S.  From time to time I’ll post my thoughts on the race and the different candidates.

This morning, Rep. Michele Bachmann from Minnesota is officially entering the Republican Presidential nomination election.   She’s a favourite of the Tea Party wing of the GOP and is the founding chair of the Tea Party Caucus in Congress.

Michele Bachmann

What Rep. Bachmann has going for her:

1. She will have strong support from the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party.  What the 2010 election cycle demonstrated is that the tea party wing is unrelenting in nominating very conservative candidates, even if it means it will cost the Republican Party the general election – we only have to look to Alaska, Rhode Island, and Utah.  The power of Tea Party is undisputed.  It will be interesting to see whether it is powerful in a presidential primary where turnout is generally higher than a congressional primary.

2. She starts off well in Iowa, the first caucus state.   A very respectable poll released by the Des Moines Register has her statistically tied with former Mass. Governor Mitt Romney.  Although she is in the low single digits in national polls – her supporters are enthusiastic about her campaign – an important component of a successful campaign in a low-turnout contest.

3. Bachmann is an excellent fundraiser.  You need money to win a presidential nomination and Bachmann has shown she can raise big money even when running for a single Congressional seat in Minnesota.  She raised $13.5 million toward her house campaign last year, the most of any 2010 candidate, thanks to her network of grassroots tea party supporters across the country.

4. She is building a very strong team of consultants and political operatives from across the GOP spectrum.  This is important for organization as well as making her seem like a viable candidate.  She’s doing everything right – and that is in sharp contrast to someone like Sarah Palin.

But can she win the nomination?

At this point, I think she is a very long shot at actually winning the nomination.  Winning Iowa does not necessarily lead to winning the nomination – ask Mike Huckabee – but we shouldn’t completely count her out.  He will raise more money than Huckabee, has a strong base of support, and will be very different from some of the other candidates in the race.  If Sarah Palin stays out, her chances will certainly go up.  At the end of the day though, Bachmann will have a tough time to win in some of the bigger states like NY, Texas, California, and Ohio.

If she is going to win, she has to win Iowa.  A loss in Iowa will likely end her campaign so expect here to devout much time and resources into Iowa and South Carolina.  If she can win both, she will certainly be in a good position heading into the bigger states.

If she doesn’t win, she will most certainly be a spoiler especially for someone like former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty who needs to win Iowa if he will have any shot at the nomination.  Bachmann is Pawlenty’s worst nightmare and maybe Romney’s dream.  She may prevent Pawlenty from winning Iowa and building momentum into other states and thus giving front runner Romney a clearer road to the nomination.

Republican voters looking for a candidate who can defeat President Obama may look elsewhere and this is Bachmann’s greatest liability. There are big questions whether Bachmann could appeal beyond the Republican base to moderate independent voters needed to defeat Obama in the November 2012 election.

“Are you a flake?” is what Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked Bachmann this weekend.  She will need to show the country and the GOP establishment that the answer is a clear NO.  Otherwise, she won’t be taken seriously and will simply be a factor and not a winner in this election.