What happened to Bachmann? Or, rather, what happened to everyone’s perception of Bachmann?

A question that occurred to me before tonight’s debate (and therefore whatever happens in tonight’s debate is not relevant to it): Why did everyone in the last week or two switch on a dime and stop referring to Michele Bachmann as one of the top three candidates and instead begin referring to her as a “struggling” candidate? Was there some change that occurred in the real world corresponding with the change in Bachmann’s public image (and if there was, why do none of the people now referring to her a struggling candidate tell us what it was?), or was it one of those situations where a new phrase enters the public discourse for no particular reason and everyone starts mindlessly repeating it?

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Ken Hechtman writes:

Rick Perry entered the race, that’s what happened. Before that, she had the Tea Party vote to herself. Afterwards, she had to split it with him, her poll numbers dropped accordingly and now she has to fight for support srecently took for granted.

James R. writes:

Simple horse-race tactics really: Perry managed to bigfoot her momentum coming out of the Iowa Debate and Ames Straw Poll with his own announcement and antics, absorbing attention at the very time when she was gaining momentum.

Lefties and the official press (a distinction without a difference) might attribute her struggles with a few verbal fumbles and the like, but that indicates more their own obsessions than the interests of Republican constituencies. Progressives think anyone who disagrees with them is crazy, stupid, duped, corrupt, or some combination of all of the above, and so portray them all that way. They’ve been doing the same number on Perry, and would on any of the candidates except Huntsman (and to some extent, Romney, which should tell us something). So since they’re busy portraying Perry the same way they were busy portraying Bachmann, that can’t explain her slippage.

This is an instance where horse-race tactical mechanics really is the explanation for why a candidate’s campaign has gone into relative eclipse: Perry sucked Bachmann’s momentum away.

Jim C. writes:

She’s perceived as a loyal lieutenant, not a general. advantage romney

LA replies:

To the contrary, she has frequently being criticized as an attention-seeker who doesn’t follow her party but cares only for herself.

Lee P. writes:

Watching MNBC where tonight’s GOP candidates debate took place, I noticed that the commentators gleefully demoted Bachmann to the second tier. Why? I don’t believe liberals like to see intelligent, pretty women like her, Palin, and Nikki Haley involved on the national stage from the conservative side. They would like to see her off the stage, leaving the stage to white men. Then they could criticize the Republicans for being right-wing white men.

However I think Bachmann is losing from another side. Most people NOW want a white Christian man with a classical American name. Rick Perry is that person. The moment Rick Perry appeared was the moment he sucked in all the air in the room. We are tired of a weirdly named, philosophically exotic, neo-black, quasi-Muslim, unAmerican schmuck! We don’t want a woman or another variation on “equality” because we long for a man with a square jaw.

When I saw the tribute to Ronald Reagan on MNBC, I thought to myself, what a man! Was that the golden age? I’m tired of all these schmendricks. People want a president who talks like a man and walks like a man and appears manly. Just on that basis Perry will sweep the southwest, the southeast, the Atlantic coast, the prairies and the midwest. The effetes in NY and California will vote for their basketball player …

LA writes:

Reply to all. Of course I had heard that Perry had cut into Bachmann’s support. I didn’t realize that that had been enough by itself to demote her from one of three top contenders to a struggling candidate, as though she had become Tim Pawlenty.

For example, Jonathan Tobin at Commentary writes tonight: “Michele Bachmann has faded out of contention and now must be considered unlikely to put forth a serious challenge to Perry…” How does a “top tier candidate” “fade out of contention,” given that the first actual voting will not take place until next February? Through opinion polls? Has Bachmann dropped that severely in polls since Perry entered? And are opinion polls so dispositive?

John Kelly writes:

If the “everyone” that you refer to in your question concerning Bachmann’s “struggling” is FOX news and those feeding off of it, I’d have to say that FOX news for the most part dismisses the Tea Party and therefore Bachmann as “too extreme.” FOX is slanted establishment Republican as much as MSNBC is slanted left wing Democrat. FOX holds the conservative steering wheel though they are too progressive permissive to see over that steering wheel.

If you are questioning why Bachmann herselfseems to struggle it is because she seems to try too hard not to show an adverse face in the face of adversity. She smiles too broadly when hit with a stinging question. Her media coaching shows allowing those who think she is amateurish to have a point. [LA replies: Her constant smiling is part of what has sometimes struck me as excessive programming.]

Personally I’m ready for amateur as long as the amateur is genuine, deep, true-blue, no PC about itconservative. I do wish Bachmann would just portray a bit more gravitas. She’s still my pick.

Richard O. writes:

The same thing happened with Perry. Suddenly he was “The Front Runner” after a four percent write-in showing in the Iowa Straw Poll. Sez who?

A NYT story by Jeff Zaleny on the results of the straw poll had it that the results of the poll and Perry’s announcement “represented a significant reshuffling of the campaign and highlighted a deep uncertainty among Republicans over who would be the strongest nominee.” Where did he get this stuff? Significant reshuffling? Deep uncertainty? Holy smoke. Something like 450 days to go to the election, the campaign barely off the blocks, and this is all clear?

The unexplained Perry and Bachmann “branding” are part of the same phenomenon. I say it’s the press getting their marching orders off JournoList or its successor.

The question then is, why Perry? If the press had a hand in pushing McAmnesty last time around, they did good. Is it that the word is out from Lib HQ to push the Republican with the least interest in closing the border? The RINO in the field? The one with no Tea Party affiliation?

Is the strategy to discredit any candidate with a Tea Party connection and thus choose an establishment Republican? Sign me up for this version.

For the records, I’m not saying that’s a fair characterization of Perry, as a RINO. I don’t, however, see him as any kind of a conservative either, as far as I know now.

September 8

Sophia A. writes:

Regarding Ken Hechtmann’s comment that Perry’s entry took away Bachmann’s Tea Party support, I am confused. Perry strikes me as the ultimate Republican Establishment candidate. I am open to correction of course. But it strikes me that Bachmann’s support in the Tea Party is solid whereas Perry is the Organization’s man. And in the Republican Party, never underestimate the importance of the Establishment. (They gave us George W. Bush, among other outrages.)

I have no explanation as to why Bachmann is faltering, if she is. Just a question about the characterization of Perry as having Tea Party appeal. Does he?

I do think that Perry’s entry into the race has affected things considerably. It’s complicated, but let me focus on a few externals. Bachmann is a 5 foot tall woman. She is very pretty, better looking than Palin in my opinion, and for all the media-bashing, she has gotten considerable attention for those reasons alone. Now comes this big, bluff, hearty dude with a good American name, and people want to take a look-see. The media are a herd. They go with the lead animal.

I still think its way early days yet to make a prediction but my heart is with Romney (and I’d love to see Bachmann as Veep). Romney—the man of my heart? Stranger things have happened.

I think Romney is the only candidate with the brains to tackle the unbelievable shambles 12 years of Bush/Obama have left us. You can criticize him all you like we need a guy with some smarts. I sincerely believe that four more years of Obama/Reid/Pelosi will destroy this country. So I’m willing to put aside the fact that as Governor of Massachusetts he signed a same-sex marriage law into effect. (Yep, ‘twas he.)

There are limits to the “everybody I know” method of analysis but…. everybody I know is utterly disaffected with Obama. If the Republicans can put up a credible pair of running mates, they will win. If the top of the ticket is Romney, I cannot see him running an amateurish campaign such as McCain ran. For the first time in his life, Obama will be up against a man who plays to win. Who knows, this might actually be fun.

LA replies:

I don’t think Bachmann is five feet tall. Romney’s problem is that he’s not seen as someone who plays to win, that he seems soft and too eager to please.

Joseph C. writes:

What happened to Michelle Bachmann was that the Establishment Republicans realized the threat she posed to their globalist agenda and go-along-to-get-along Washington insider behavior if actually nominated. Mitt Romney was their hope, but when he was no longer a sure thing, they backed Rick Perry, knowing that they would get one of their own no matter who won.

The press loves playing up the Romney vs. Perry angle, but on the big issues facing America (i.e., immigration, American sovereignty, jobs), there is very little difference between the two. The only true “outsiders” are Bachmann, Ron Paul (whose hostility to Israel makes him unacceptable) and Herman Cain. The RINOs saw the threat to Romney posed by Bachmann and rushed to get in front of her. By picking a Texan, faux-religious Christian, they can dent her TEA Party support. The press is happy to go along, because when the economy craters from the weight of the welfare state, the “conservative” Perry can get the blame.

LA replies:

What has Bachmann said that shows that she would pose a threat to the globalist agenda?

Bill Carpenter writes:

The press played her up to portray the Republican base as extreme and to take attention away from more qualified candidates, like Tim Pawlenty. Now they downplay her broad support to hurt her as a candidate and to favor the candidates more likely to compromise with major items on the liberal agenda, Perry and Romney.

Bachmann is philosophically the best widely-supported Republican candidate but she and Pawlenty both echoed the stay-the-course line on Afghanistan a couple of months ago. I don’t know if she has other positions that challenge the globalist agenda, except for a strong orientation towards government living within its means.

Richard O. writes:

Jazz Shaw at PJM, no less, writes

The person most in need of a breakout performance in the debate—and thereby the one with the most to lose—was Michele Bachmann. She managed to duck under even that bar. There were no notable gaffes on her part, but her stock answers and frequent, distracting glares off camera served as more of a sideshow than anything else. This debate delivered a message to me that the Bachmann campaign is effectively over.

As you observed, how did Bachmann come to be seen as struggling and now she’s acquired from just one reporter this status of being most in need of a “breakout” performance? Five months to go before Iowa and she needs a breakout? Does any candidate need a “breakout”? Not by any standard embraced by mere rubes. Does anyone watch a marathon, which is known to be over 26 miles in length, and expect for there to be a breakout in the first half mile? What moron looks for that? But, for a long grueling presidential campaign, we get the equivalent of 100-yard-dash analysis.

Only Bachmann gave “stock” answers? “Glares” off camera? Finished no. 1 in the Iowa Straw Poll just days ago and now, with “no notable gaffes,” she’s done? This is absurd.

By Shaw’s own account, what the remainder of the Republican candidates needed last night was for Brian Williams to stop trying to manipulate the results by focusing inappropriately on Romney and Perry.

That reporters seem to go out of their way to keep their thumb on the scale is a big problem in manipulating stampedes toward or away from candidates.

September 8, 6:45 p.m.

LA writes:

Here’s an example, from CBS News, of the sudden mainstream media consensus that Bachmann is finished, whereas less than a month ago she was being touted as a leader. She is said to have “faded” since Perry joined the Republican race on August 13. But what is this prognosis of “having faded” based on? A couple of telephone polls. It’s insane. It allows the media to construct reality any way they like it.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 07, 2011 08:51 PM | Send

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