Tags: Exclusive Interviews | Tea Party | 2012 President Race | | bachmann | palin | media

Michele Bachmann to Media: I’m No Sarah Palin 2.0

By David A. Patten   |   Monday, 30 May 2011 04:12 PM

You’d probably expect Rep. Michele Bachmann — three-term member of Congress, founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, parent to 23 foster children, and one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World — to be judged on her own merits. But whenever you find Bachmann’s name in the headlines these days, it seems that Sarah Palin’s name isn’t far behind.

And some observers are starting to suspect it’s no accident.

“A Tea Party Favorite Stirs Iowa. No, Her Name Isn’t Palin,” touts one New York Times headline. “GOP Has a Lightning Rod, and Her Name Is Not Palin,” declares another. A lead story on Politico on Friday was titled, “Palin, Bachmann Size Each Other Up.”

Editor’s Note: Do you support Michele Bachmann for President? Vote Here Now.

Of course, headline writing these days is designed to pack popular search terms into one line. But if Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican, announces in June as expected that she’s running for the GOP 2012 presidential nomination, she’ll have to find a way to put the Palin comparisons behind her.

At times, it’s almost as if the media views Bachmann as an updated version of Sen. John McCain’s 2008 running mate — a Palin 2.0. On Thursday, Bachmann had to remind reporters that no two competitors “are interchangeable.”

Tobe Berkovitz, a Boston University communications professor and media analyst, tells Newsmax that the real commonality between Palin and Bachmann is that both “are a threat to the liberal orthodoxy of what constitutes acceptable powerful female politicians. Both have strong personalities and successful media personas.”

In an exclusive interview last week, Newsmax asked Bachmann for her take on the constant comparisons.

“Well, there are agendas that other people have,” Bachmann said. “And so it will be my responsibility to introduce myself to the public, so that they know what my biography is.”

Superficially, the similarities between the two are obvious. Both Bachmann and Palin are photogenic. Both are conservative women with big families and strong pro-life credentials. And they share a talent for coining phrases that go viral and blaze across the internet to rally the GOP faithful.

But that’s where the similarities end.

Bachmann is a former federal tax attorney whose ascent on the national stage began when she was elected to represent Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District in 2006. Palin’s entrée to national politics started when she was elected the first female governor of Alaska.

Palin earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Idaho after attending several other colleges. Her role defending McCain’s flank in 2008 left her saddled with high negatives, according to most polls. But she continues to enjoy star status as a Fox News commentator, author, and reality-TV personality.

Bachmann, by contrast, earned her street cred with the grass-roots conservative movement during her hard-fought battle in Congress over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. She founded the House Tea Party Caucus in July 2010, and has become the GOP’s No. 1 fundraising dynamo in the House, raking in more than $13.4 million in the 2010 cycle.

With law degrees from William & Mary Law School and Oral Roberts University, Bachmann has leveraged her assignment on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to begin establishing bona fides on Israel, the Middle East, and the global war on terror. She also has a reputation as a tireless campaigner.

Bachmann’s biography includes enduring her parents’ divorce, being raised by her mother, and overcoming serious economic hardship to be successful.

“We went to below poverty and I had to work my way through college and work for everything that I had, and it was one of the greatest experiences I had to teach me the value of a dollar,” Bachmann told Newsmax. “I'm grateful for that and, from there as you know I'm a tax lawyer and we started a successful company.”

Bachmann and her husband accepted 23 foster children into their home over the years, several of them pregnant teens who had nowhere else to turn. One day, one of her foster kids brought home an 11th-grade mathematics assignment — coloring in a poster. Bachmann was so concerned about how a poor education could affect a teen’s life that she began investigating education standards and exploring possible reforms. The educational policy speeches she began delivering across Minnesota ultimately would launch her career in politics.

Conservatives worry that presenting Bachmann through the lens of Sarah Palin will drive up her negatives and could limit her appeal to the swing-voters who ultimately determine most elections. Elections are hard enough to win when you’re explaining your own views, let alone someone else’s.

Berkovitz agrees that the media’s association of Palin with Bachmann is no accident.

“Although Bachmann does not have as lengthy a track record as Palin when it comes to gaffes, by connecting the two together, the media creates an impression that among Bachmann's personal characteristics is the quality of putting her foot in her mouth,” he tells Newsmax. “Both politicians are Herculean fundraisers, and have the power to draw large and enthusiastic crowds. The media powers-that-be hope to defang Bachmann, before she can become a significant national candidate.”

Former Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell is among those who expect Bachmann to be subjected to a higher level of scrutiny and a double standard.

“They have done this campaign after campaign, candidate after candidate,” Blackwell says. “So I think that you will see a well-orchestrated campaign from the left to define and destroy Michele Bachmann.”

Double-standard or no, it’s obvious that right now Bachmann’s star is rising. Tea Party Express founder Sal Russo tells Newsmax that Bachmann will feel the heatas a conservative woman.

“As much as Reagan was bashed unmercifully, I think it may even be worse for attractive conservative women,” Russo says. “The left thinks they should be liberals, not conservatives. So they are angry at them for defying the stereotype. Black conservatives face the same thing.”

GOP strategist Roger Stone says Bachmann “has to be taken seriously in this field.” And GOP strategist Mike Murphy said on "Meet the Press" last week that Bachmann could be the front-runner in Iowa.

But Stone adds that will require Bachmann to avoid the types of “unforced errors” that recently have plagued former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Bachmann must avoid gaffes or misstatements “right out of the box” to keep foes from defining her negatively, Stone says.

If Bachmann is able to find her own voice and avoid imploding, it also would help her shore up her standing with the GOP’s establishment wing. Several GOP insiders have expressed admiration for her principled conservatism and her achievements, but remain skeptical she can emerge as a top-tier candidate.

Bachmann says such doubts reveal more about the Beltway’s political establishment than they do about her.

“Well, I think the establishment is nervous because they usually own this town,” she tells Newsmax. “The ruling class owns Washington, D.C., and they are nervous that it could get away from them.”

Editor’s Note: Do you support Michele Bachmann for President? Vote Here Now.

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You d probably expect Rep. Michele Bachmann three-term member of Congress, founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, parent to 23 foster children, and one of Time magazine s 100 Most Influential People in the World to be judged on her own merits. But whenever you find...

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