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Why Michele Bachmann should run for president in 2 charts

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, R-Min. speaks during Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority event in Washington, Friday, June 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

Michele Bachmann, who is retiring from Congress at the end of her term, is stoking speculation that she might mount a second bid for the White House.

In an article by Scott Conroy over at RealClearPolitics, Bachmann, who finished sixth in the Iowa Caucus after winning the Iowa straw poll, said she hasn’t made a decision as to whether she will actually run, but noted that perhaps her name should be on the roster of 2016 GOP maybes.

“The only thing that the media has speculated on is that it’s going to be various men that are running,” she said in an interview with Conroy. “They haven’t speculated, for instance, that I’m going to run. What if I decide to run? And there’s a chance I could run.”

Bachmann makes an excellent and accurate point.

Even as GOP women hold four governorships and Senate seats, and as Republicans have an aggressive campaign to court women voters, there has been almost no speculation about any GOP women being at the top of the 2016 ticket.  In fact, whenever South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley or New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez do come up in conversation or 2016 media speculation, it’s almost always as a potential vice presidential candidates.

A January Washington Examiner cover story on Martinez had this headline: “Is New Mexico’s Susana Martinez A Republican VP Candidate?”

And a recent article by Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins on Haley, once a rising star, reported her 2016 prospects this way: “Two Haley advisers said she would likely forego a presidential run and position herself, instead, as a top-tier vice presidential contender for the 2016 ticket. ‘I think she’ll be on everybody’s short list,’ said one aide.”

And in a piece on Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), there was this DailyBeast headline: “The GOP Already has a 2016 frontrunner…for Vice President.”

You get the point.

Another way to illustrate the absence of women on the GOP side is this recent chart by Gallup:

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 9.05.34 AM

Not a single women makes this list, proving Bachmann’s point. Reporters haven’t speculated about GOP women being in the top slot, though they have speculated not only about the men listed above, but long-shots like Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who is apparently being wooed by his party to run.

And then there’s Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), also now possibly thinking about a bid, with his state prepping to host the 2016 RNC convention.

Now look at this chart on possible Democratic 2016 contenders:

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 9.07.20 AM

If Clinton decides not to run, other women like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) could be in contention in 2016 along with Warren (D-Mass.)

More often than not, people who run for president have a very slim chance of actually winning the nomination and ultimately the big job. That doesn’t stop people–overwhelmingly men–from trying. What does usually happen is that those people (mostly men) get a bigger platform than what they already had.  See Newt Gingrich and his CNN show.  And Rick Santorum, who is now head of a Tennessee-based Christian movie studio. 

The Center for American Women and Politics has compiled a list of women who have mounted serious bids for president going back to 1872.  Their criteria include women who “achieved major historic firsts; were named in national polls; achieved prominence by holding significant elected or appointed office; appeared on the general election ballot in a majority of states; and/or became eligible for federal matching funds.”

By those standards, a grand total of 13 women, including Bachmann, were serious contenders for the White House over the last almost 150 years, and five for the vice presidency.

What both Sarah Palin and Clinton were able to do in 2008 is blaze a path for other women and upend stereotypes about what a presidential and vice presidential candidates and women in politics more generally should look like, sound like and act like.

Palin, for instance, went a long way in helping to bury the idea that women with young children couldn’t serve at the highest levels in the White House.  And if Clinton runs in 2016, she’ll stir more conversations about women and politics and leadership, all conversations that must be had as women seek political parity.

So for Bachmann, who was on the only woman on stage in the gazillion 2012 GOP debates, there’s no reason she shouldn’t run in 2016. If Texas Gov. Rick Perry can rehabilitate his oops image and run again, then perhaps Bachmann can do the same, helping to subtly change ideas about women and politics, and offering a conservative take on women’s issues.

“Like with anything else, practice makes perfect,” she said in the RCP story. “And I think if a person has gone through the process — for instance, I had gone through 15 presidential debates — it’s easy to see a person’s improvement going through that.”


Nia-Malika Henderson is a political reporter for The Fix.

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