Michele Bachmann Is Not Done

This is one politician who won't go away quietly

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s announcement that she was running for president in June of last year was met with a wide array of human responses, from anger to elation, from ridicule to praise. But most of all there was fear that a wave of Tea Party angst could actually carry this woman to the White House. After all, just a year earlier the Tea Party showed its power by sending an army of Congressional freshman to Washington armed with signed tax pledges, demands and a united no-compromise front. So it was possible.

Bachmann was seen to be as crazy as the unfair picture on the cover of Newsweek portrayed her to be. Despite her monumental antipathy for President Barack Obama, she was woefully incapable of beating him. She was simply too offbeat, too uninformed, too controversial and far too prone to say something shockingly untrue. She once claimed that swine flu outbreaks only happen under Democrats, even though the last big outbreak, in 1976, was during the Gerald Ford administration. On August 16th of last year she started a speech with a birthday wish for Elvis Presley, even though it was the anniversary of his death not his birth. She claimed she was brought up in the same Iowa town as John Wayne. She wasn’t. The list goes on and on and continued in the early debates when Bachmann claimed the HPV vaccine can cause mental retardation. It doesn’t. The list is so long that Fox’s Chris Wallace eventually asked Bachmann, “Are you a flake?”

Despite all of that, the fears of a Bachmann nomination were flamed when the congresswoman led in early polls and then won the Iowa Straw Poll, a test of her political strength in the state that would vote first in the nomination process. It seemed for a moment that the Tea Party had not learned the lessons of Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle. In 2010, the Republicans could have taken control of the Senate had the Tea Party not pushed those two inferior candidates to win the party nominations in Delaware and Nevada.

The Tea Party showed it may be crazy, but it’s not stupid by rejecting the Bachmann presidential bid almost as fast as it embraced it. On the same day that the straw poll results were announced, Texas Governor Rick Perry announced his candidacy, and the Tea Party flocked to him. They have since left Perry and have continued flocking from candidate to candidate like a crowd reacting to a blue-light special at Kmart. They seemed to have now settled on former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.

So where does Michele Bachmann stand now that she finished sixth in the state she was born in and was rebuked so definitively that she was forced to drop out the very next day? The answer: Michele Bachmann ends up looking better than when she entered the race.

Somewhere along the way Bachmann found sanity. During the debate on foreign policy, she was the clear winner, showing a deep knowledge and understanding of world affairs. On cable news and the Sunday morning talk shows, the tax attorney impressed with her knowledge of tax code, health care and the workings of government. When Newt Gingrich talked down to Bachmann in a debate she counterpunched in a moment that made the former speaker look out of touch and sexist. Bachmann would say over and over again that “I am a serious candidate for President of the United States.” And in the end, she became one, showing she can learn, evolve and rise to a challenge. It all came too late for her candidacy, but it helps the Michele Bachmann brand. She is no longer seen as Sarah Palin lite.

Bachmann helped herself by running, and she was wise to drop out when she did. Iowa proved its relevance in the process by rejecting her candidacy. And the Tea Party has showed that it has learned from past mis-steps.

We have not heard the last of the new and improved Michele Bachmann.