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What’s behind Michele Bachmann’s 2016 tease

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, R-Min. speaks during Faith and Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority event. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann has made it clear that she's considering what was once the stuff of parody news sites: the outgoing Republican congresswoman might run for president again in 2016. Her pitch? Essentially, Bachmann is saying that if the presidential elections were yearbook superlatives, the American People are ready to elect a dark horse "most improved" candidate over the ever-popular "most likely to succeed." (This is, interestingly enough, the same argument Texas Gov. Rick Perry is making about 2016.)

"Like with anything else, practice makes perfect," Bachmann told Real Clear Politics on Tuesday, adding: "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."

Nobody except for Bachmann knows at this point whether she'll base her 2016 decision on her chances of actually winning the nomination. But it seems unlikely that becoming president is the only -- or even the primary -- reason she's talking about a run. Earlier this year,  Bachmann dismissed the idea that Americans harbored "a pent-up desire” for a female president. Even if Bachmann knows she has about as much of a chance of securing the Republican nomination as Bernie Sanders does the Democratic one, there's at least one other thing that could prompt her to jump in. 

That thing is, wait for it, money. Bachmann's MICHELE PAC, which raises funds for other conservative Congressional candidates, has already used Hillary Clinton's presumptive 2016 bid for fundraising. Earlier this month, the PAC sent out an email from Bachmann in which she compared herself favorably to the former Secretary of State. As USA Today reported, the e-mail also contained a bit of media criticism from Bachmann: "MSNBC spends a lot of airtime reporting our respective positions, flowering her with accolades and maliciously denouncing me." And some potential presidential candidates have been able to cash in on the speaking circuit as they ponder a run. A potential presidential candidate is a far more attractive speaker for a trade association or corporation than a former presidential candidate and retiring U.S. House member.

As Bachmann acknowledged in her Tuesday interview, viable female candidates for the 2016 ticket are sparse on her side of the aisle: "The only thing that the media has speculated on is that it's going to be various men that are running," she said, adding: "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 has already leveraged that dearth of women into opportunities for punditry: earlier, she attempted to present Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who has said she's definitely not running, as a rival to Clinton for the nomination. 

Then again, Bachmann still believes, even after 2012, that Americans could be on the brink of starting a conservative transformation. And it's clear Bachmann intends to position herself as someone involved in that perpetually anticipated conservative wave. Whether that positioning is a political decision or a business one -- or a little bit of both -- remains to be seen.

[RELATED: Why Michele Bachmann should run for president in 2 charts.]

Abby Ohlheiser is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.



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