1. She’s got a profile now
Bachmann is now in the illustrious company of the winners of the Iowa Straw Poll (a group that includes Mitt Romney, George W. Bush, Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush). Her presidential campaign fizzled shortly thereafter, but the fact is that a politician who largely flew under the mainstream’s radar now has a little more heft.
With that heft comes more attention, and suddenly the things she says are not just the musings of some back-bench member of Congress but a Republican who actually got some real traction with the GOP base against the likes of Romney. That makes the things she says potentially more harmful to her party.
Which leads us to ...
2. The GOP’s reaction
Bachmann’s letter, which was co-signed by four other House members, wasn’t big news until McCain took to the Senate floor and eviscerated her.
“These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis and no merit. And they need to stop now,” McCain said, according to prepared remarks.
Suddenly, members of her own party were no longer standing idly by and (to borrow a phrase from the Boston Red Sox/Manny Ramirez) let Bachmann be Bachmann. McCain, one of the biggest voices in the GOP today and the party’s 2008 presidential nominee, took time to publicly and starkly criticize one of his fellow Republicans. Soon, Boehner and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which Bachmann serves on, joined McCain in denouncing Bachmann.
Democrats can attack Bachmann all day; the moment that Republicans with such stature enter the fray against their GOP colleague, it becomes big news.
3. The target
Put simply, Bachmann picked the wrong person to mess with, and her allegations probably wouldn’t have made big news if she didn’t name Abedin.
Abedin is very close to the Clintons and has a great reputation in Washington, even among Republicans and the media. Also, perhaps just as importantly, she was turned into a sympathetic character when her husband, then-Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), was caught sending lewd messages to women on Twitter last year.
All of that means Abedin has lots of friends, McCain being one of them, who aren’t going to stand idly by when someone levies charges against her. Unlike her previous brushes with controversy, Bachmann is suddenly outmanned.
4. The severity of the charge
All of the above aside, what Bachmann is alleging is on a whole new level from her previous allegations. While she alleged in 2007 that Iran had plans to turn parts of Iraq into a terrorist haven, accusing U.S. government officials of being involved in a terrorist conspiracy is different.