U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) speaks during the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana June 17, 2011
Since being elected to Congress in 2006, Bachmann has been one of the most outspoken — and controversial — members of the House. She’s also shown a tendency to veer wildly off message — as she did in 2008 when she suggested then Senator Barack Obama might harbor “anti-American” views.
Bachmann’s newly installed political team has had its own battles with message discipline — typified by campaign manager Ed Rollins’ recent comments alleging that former Alaska governor Sarah Palin hasn’t been “serious” over the last few years.
After the incident, Bachmann was “very firm” with Rollins, according to an adviser to the congresswoman, telling him this should not happen again and that there should be “no more press”. Bachmann also demanded that Rollins call the Palin people and apologize. “She is definitely not tone deaf,” the source added.
Bachmann’s move to limit her exposure in the wake of her debate performance is a smart strategy designed to avoid accidentally trampling on the momentum she built with that performance.
The question for Bachmann — as it is for all candidates who have never been subjected to the intense scrutiny of a presidential race — is whether she can maintain that message discipline over the grinding months on the campaign trail to come.
Message discipline is something Sarah Palin has never been able to grasp and to her detriment – as her negative favorable polling demonstrates. But, if Bachmann can refine her message and concentrate on defeating Romney, she may find far better success than any of the pundits would have predicted a few months ago. She is a natural for Iowa and South Carolina and NO other GOP candidate can come close to competing with her in those states.
And, Ed Rollins, while very capable and who has a track record of success, does have a habit of running off at the mouth. Putting the brakes on Rollins, while ingratiating yourself to Sarah Palin who, if she does not run, WILL do events and fundraising for you is a no-brain decision.
It’s a near-certainty that Bachmann will slip as she did when she suggested that the battle of Lexington and Concord was fought in New Hampshire.
An isolated error or misstep here and there is to be expected and will be committed by every candidate in the field — including President Obama. (Remember arugula!)
But, for Bachmann the bar will be higher (or lower depending on where you are standing) since there is a narrative ready and waiting to be written — because of her past public flubs — that she is too prone to straying off message to win the nomination.
That is a dangerous storyline for Bachmann. To her credit, she seems to grasp that fact and is taking steps to counteract it.