Opinion: Michele Bachmann: What happened to the once-promising candidate?

Share via

This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

Five months ago, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) became the first female presidential candidate to win the Iowa straw poll in Ames. On Tuesday, she did so poorly in the Iowa caucuses, she decided to end her campaign.

So what happened?

Analyses are pouring in, many of them sounding the same basic critiques of Bachmann as a campaigner: her organization had too many defectors, she couldn’t raise enough money, she made headline-grabbing gaffes. Patricia Murphy of the Washington Post offered a novel spin on the familiar male-voters-don’t-like-strong-female-candidates meme, arguing that Bachmann failed because GOP women didn’t support her. And Bill Adair of PolitiFact contended that Bachmann was dragged down by all the whoppers she told on the campaign trail.


I wonder if there wasn’t something more fundamental at work. As former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty noted back when he was still a presidential candidate, Bachmann had no record to speak of. She’d spent her years in Congress either in the GOP minority or, after Republicans took power in the House, attempting the politically impossible tasks of repealing some of President Obama’s top accomplishments. Prior to that, she’d spent her years in politics as a state legislator, not a governor. And she’d never run a sizable business.

So even though she presented herself as the person who would undo all the damage done by Obama, she was his opposite in ideology only. In a telling respect, she’s just like the president: someone with no leadership experience. And the GOP field this go-around has been loaded with anti-Obamas who actually have that experience. There have been five former governors, a former speaker of the House and a former CEO of a national restaurant chain.

Seemingly every Republican candidate has pounded away at Obama’s alleged failures as a leader, exhorting GOP voters not to put another novice in the White House. And despite her fiery and uncompromising rhetoric, Bachmann hasn’t proved yet that she can accomplish anything other than winning a seat in Congress. Granted, that’s no mean feat. But it doesn’t demonstrate an ability to lead the country. It may not be a fair criticism or a reliable indicator of future performance, but it’s a point that Bachmann herself has repeatedly made about the current occupant of the Oval Office.


2012 Campaign: Defending Michele Bachmann (generically)

What the Iowa results mean for Romney, Santorum and Paul


Iowa’s mixed message

It’s Rick Santorum’s turn

Do the Iowa caucuses matter?

-- Jon Healey