From Andrew Romano at THE DAILY BEAST:
Michele Bachmann has certainly been keeping busy.
Within hours of winning her third congressional term in November, the colorful Minnesota Republican began campaigning for conference chair, the No. 4 position in the House GOP leadership. Why? Because “constitutional conservatives”—like her and, presumably, unlike the rest of John Boehner’s team—”deserve a loud and clear voice!” A few weeks later, news leaked that Bachmann would be traveling to Iowa for a fundraiser—and that “nothing,” according to her spokesman, “is off the table.” Asked whether she was considering a presidential run, Bachmann told ABC News “I’m going to Iowa—there’s your answer.”
Then on Friday Bachmann announced that even though Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan is slated to deliver the official Republican response to President Obama’s upcoming State of the Union address, she would be giving her own online rebuttal on behalf of the Tea Party Express “shortly after” Ryan’s speech concludes.
Bachmann’s post-election maneuvering isn’t particularly surprising; the ultraconservative Minnesotan, who by one estimate appears on national cable once every nine days, is always looking for new ways to get attention. But the response her scheming has received in top GOP circles—a response that would best be described as arctic—suggests that the battle between disgruntled, absolutist Tea Party activists (who want to blow the system up) and their more realistic representatives in Washington (who plan to work within it) is only beginning.
Consider how rank-and-file Republicans have reacted to Bachmann’s recent displays of ambition. As soon as the congresswoman launched her conference-chair campaign, Eric Cantor and Mike Pence [one of the first members of Batshit Bachmann’s Tea Party Caucus]—the Indiana pol she would be succeeding in the position—endorsed her rival, Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling.
But the most revealing moment will undoubtedly come on January 25, when Bachmann faces off against Ryan. […] Boehner and Co. are less interested in political grandstanding and knee-jerk opposition than in translating their campaign slogans about fiscal responsibility into actual legislation (or, at the very least, creating the impression that’s what they’re interested in). As Boehner told The New Yorker late last year, 2011 “is going to be probably the first really big adult moment [for Republicans]. You can underline ‘adult.'” Ryan reinforces the “hey, we’re grownups” message.
Bachmann, however, does not. A recent analysis by the Pulitzer Prize-winning watchdog site PolitiFact shows that of the 13 times she’s been fact-checked, “seven of her claims [have been found] to be false and six have been found to be ridiculously false” […]
But while Bachmann is a genius at rallying the troops—and convincing them to give her their money—she’s never displayed the slightest skill at (or interest in) turning her small-government rhetoric into a reality by, say, proposing or passing significant legislation. In many ways, that makes her the emblematic politician for our niche-media age. When success is measured by the intensity of your following as opposed to its size—and when Twitter, Facebook, and Fox News let politicians easily reach their most intense audiences with incendiary soundbites—it’s no wonder so many of them wind up serving less as actual legislators than as conduits for a message.
The story of the next two years will be the story of whether the Republican Party can shush its big-talking “Bachmann side” long enough for its more practical “Ryan side” to negotiate with Democrats and get stuff done, or whether the Tea Party types who lap up Bachmann’s erroneous rhetoric will torpedo the GOP’s efforts to enact its agenda. Tune in January 25, and let the games begin.