Why Bachmann failed

I said yesterday that I could understand Bachmann’s unsuccessful showing in Iowa, but had trouble understanding why she did so extremely poorly. In an unsigned article, The Week gives six reasons for Bachmann’s sixth place, under five percent, finish, and I reply to each:

1. She was overtaken by other non-Romneys
From Rick Perry to Herman Cain to to Rick Santorum, a progression of other “Christian conservative alternatives to consistent Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney” took the wind out of Bachmann’s sails, says Liz Halloran at NPR. Remember, Perry announced his candidacy on the very day Bachmann won the Ames straw poll, and he quickly shot to the top of the polls. In that sense, the high-water mark of Bachmann’s campaign was also the beginning of the end. [LA replies: This is not really an explanation. Yes, the entry of Perry into the race took support away from Bachmann, but when Perry flopped so badly, why didn’t that support return to Bachmann?]

2. Bachmann failed to find a winning message
“Once Rick Perry stole her thunder,” says Maggie Haberman at Politico, Bachmann “retreated to a familiar comfort zone of Fox News and conservative radio appearances.” And in so doing, “she also failed to develop a cohesive message beyond beating up on ‘ObamaCare’ and talking about the nation’s fiscal crisis.” That simply wasn’t enough to woo back GOP voters. [LA replies: I agree. This has been my main criticism of Bachmann all along.]

3. She told too many whoppers
Bachmann uttered a truckload of false statements, Bill Adair of PolitiFact tells NPR. “She definitely has far more ‘false’ and ‘pants on fire’ ratings than any other presidential candidate,” he says. The Minnesotan’s strange claims that mental retardation was a possible side effect of the HPV vaccine proved particularly alarming, and the media furor surrounding her stance turned off many voters. [LA replies: The mental retardation statement was a huge error and I chastized her severely for it. But after some time had passed, a more balanced perspective suggested itself. Bachmann had made one huge misstep, but her opponents had made many huge missteps.]

4. And made too many gaffes
From mixing up heroic actor John Wayne and serial killer John Wayne Gacy to suggesting that the opening battles of the Revolutionary War took place in New Hampshire (rather than Massachusetts), Bachmann made a number of well-publicized gaffes, says Peter Grier in The Christian Science Monitor. Sure, “she handled these mistakes fairly well, admitting she was wrong and moving quickly on.” But “the gaffe-prone tag stuck.” [LA replies: Again, compared to the mistakes and misstatements made by her opponents, Bachmann’s were trivial.]

5. She failed to win over women
Bachmann was the only woman in the race, but she didn’t manage to attract female voters, notes Grier. A December poll put Bachmann’s support among Iowa women at just 7.2 percent, compared to 32 percent for Ron Paul. Sarah Palin and her “stampede of conservative women” stumped for Bachmann in 2010, says Patricia Murphy in The Washington Post, but not this year. It seems reality hit the mama grizzlies, and they decided Bachmann simply wasn’t electable. [LA replies: Bachmann focused on principles and issues, not on emotional appeals. Was that a mistake?]

6. Her campaign was dysfunctional
“Bachmann was dogged throughout her campaign by staff defections at key moments,” says Grier. Last week, her Iowa co-chair jumped ship to Ron Paul’s campaign, while her former campaign manager Ed Rollins bailed out in September. Rollins even went so far as to rail “against Bachmann on cable TV and in the media,” notes Emily Schultheis at Politico. On the Hill, Bachmann is a notoriously difficult boss, and she seems to have earned a similar reputation on the campaign trail. [LA replies: I question whether voters withdraw their support from a candidate they otherwise like based on news stories about organizational problems within the campaign.]

- end of initial entry -

Stephen T. writes:

Surprised nobody in the media has mentioned this yet:

Reason # 7: She opposed amnesty for illegal Mexicans, thus alienating the vibrant, youthful, energetic, dynamic and unstoppable Hispanic Majority-of-The-Future, who were inclined to vote Republican, but instead are being driven (any day now) to mobilize into a well-organized political action to sweep away anyone who speaks against amnesty. What we saw in Iowa is just the first wave. Resistance to open borders is not only futile, it’s fatal to Republicans. Bachman’s failure in Iowa is another example of why anti-amnesty Republicans are doomed to certain extinction. (Unfortunately, there are no examples of Republicans winning the Hispanic vote by supporting amnesty, either—but that’s beside the point. )

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 05, 2012 07:50 AM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):