What does Bachmann’s candidacy mean for the GOP?

As you know doubt know by now, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) officially announced her bid for the Republican nomination for president yesterday in Waterloo, Iowa, which is her hometown (although wasn’t a big secret that she was running):

Republican Michele Bachmann is casting herself as the “bold choice” in the 2012 presidential race.

The outspoken congresswoman and tea party favorite formally launched her bid Monday in her Iowa birthplace, Waterloo, after first making her intentions clear at a debate earlier this month.

Outside a historic mansion, Bachmann said she’s waging the campaign “not for vanity.” Instead she says voters “must make a bold choice if we are to secure the promise of the future.”

Bachmann enters the race as an Iowa poll shows her near the front of the pack in the first in the nation caucus state.

“I am a descendant of generations of Iowans and I know what it means to be from Iowa. I know what we value here and I know what’s important,” said Bachmann.

Bachmann played up her tea party ties but also made mention of her Democratic roots. Bachmann said she grew up a Democrat, but changed parties after working for Jimmy Carter in 1976. She didn’t like his spending policies.

She now counts herself as a tea-party candidate, which she said is made up of Republicans but also fed up Democrats and independents.”It’s a very powerful coalition that the left fears, and they should because make no mistake about it Barrack Obama will be a one-term president,” said Bachmann.

Bachmann’s candidacy is already being viewed as a barometer to gauge the tea party movement’s power inside the Republican Party, even though there are other candidates; specifically Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson have the pro-market credentials the tea party movement desires.

Since the weekend, Bachmann has received press after a Fox News Sunday appearance where Chris Wallace, the show’s host, asked her if she was a flake. Bachmann handled the question well, giving pretty good response. Wallace, who has taken heat conservatives and tea partyers over the question, apologized yesterday. But Bachmann didn’t accept the apology, displaying thin skin for an elected official; let alone a presidential candidate.

Bachmann better get used to the scrutiny, deserved or not. The speech she gave yesterday announcing her candidacy has already received thorough fact-checking and a gaffe citing Waterloo as John Wayne’s hometown has been the biggest take way from her first “official” day as a candidate (John Wayne Gacy, a famous serial killer, spent time in the town). Other gaffes are being highlighted. But President Obama’s campaign gave her a hand yesterday by attacking her. Credibility could also be lended to her should Mitt Romney, who is commonly viewed as the frontrunner for the nomination, begin to attack her; though I can’t imagine why he’d engage Bachmann.

So what should we make of Bachmann’s candidacy? It’s hard to say at this point. Some Republican friends that work on the Hill tell me no one really takes her seriously -  not only due to her frequent gaffes, but also her lack of legislative accomplishments. However, there is no question that grassroots conservatives and the tea party movement are infatuated with her; much like they were with Herman Cain when he was the “flavor of the week.”

But Philip Klein explains what Bachmann needs to do to be considered a real contender in the GOP presidential race:

The difficulty Bachmann faces is that unlike several of her rivals, she never served as governor or in a similar executive capacity. So she’s going to have to find some way to make the argument that she’s actually prepared to be president.

During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama faced similar questions. But he had a number of things going for him that Bachmann won’t. He had an adoring media. He was a Senator, which is seen as better preparation than being a member of the House.  Also, his chief rivals (John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and eventually John McCain) didn’t have executive experience either. That allowed Obama to ride the wave of change all the way to the White House. The argument he made was that he had the “judgment to lead” because he had called the Iraq War a “dumb war” and opposed it from the beginning, while his more seasoned rivals had not.

Bachmann doesn’t have to convince people that she’s a conservative or that she would pursue conservative policies if elected. She has to prove that she can beat Obama and actually be an effective president.

It’s worth noting that a recent poll from Survey USA shows her losing in her home state to President Barack Obama. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, howver, is running even with Obama in Minnesota, a state that Republicans would love to pick up. And that’s the sticking point, and why I believe she’ll be the Mike Huckabee of 2012.

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