Michele Bachmann’s (sort of) silent strategy

at 02:59 PM ET, 06/20/2011


Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s campaign has gone quiet since her stand-out performance at the New Hampshire presidential debate last week.(AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Jim Gehrz)
In the wake of her surprisingly strong debate performance a week ago, Michele Bachmann and her campaign team have gone surprisingly silent — a calculated strategy aimed at building message discipline within the ranks as the Minnesota Republican ramps up her 2012 presidential bid.

“We need Mrs. Bachmann out front and we need the campaign to be a real campaign with one spokesperson and a disciplined message,” said one Bachmann adviser granted anonymity to speak candidly about strategy.

The source added that the decision to hunker down — from a message perspective — was made prior to the debate but put into practice once Bachmann announced that she had filed paperwork to run and hired on Alice Stewart, an alumni of Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential bid, to handle press.

For Bachmann and her campaign team, the silence (or relative silence) strategy is a new one.

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.

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.

 
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