The Washington Post

Michele Bachmann’s strong debate performance shifts GOP primary dynamics

At Monday’s GOP debate in New Hampshire, Michele Bachmann showed she could be a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming primary. As Dan Balz reported :

The strong performance by Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) — the only other clear winner Monday night — complicates Tim Pawlenty’s situation in Iowa.

Bachmann showed stage presence and a flair for attracting attention to herself. She lacks the experience of Pawlenty, a two-term former governor, but she could become a real force in Iowa, the state Pawlenty knows he must win to be Romney’s chief challenger next year.

Bachmann’s debate performance was just that, a good showing in a single event. For her, the question is what she does with it. She has shown in recent weeks that she is serious about trying to run a good campaign, but so much depends on how she handles herself. Herman Cain learned Monday night that one good debate, which he had in South Carolina, doesn’t begat a second. Bachmann has raised expectations for herself and now has to meet them or risk falling back.

Monday’s debate also highlighted more clearly the choices that face two prospective candidates, Sarah Palin and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. No one can predict what kind of staying power Bachmann might have, but her emergence as the likely favorite of many tea party voters and social conservatives could accelerate Palin’s timetable.

She and Palin are now on a collision course, unless the former Alaska governor and vice presidential nominee has no real interest in running. But if Palin is truly thinking about joining the race, she might need to announce it earlier than late August. Her next bus tour becomes all the more interesting.

Bachmann will attempt to ride the strong positive reactions to her debate performance and make a lasting impact on the Republican primary. As Amy Gardner and Sandhya Somashekhar explained:

Rep. Michele Bachmann enjoyed a day of lucrative fundraising, national media exposure and glowing analysis of her newfound momentum on Tuesday, following a strong performance in her first presidential debate.

She also forced her competitors to assess how she might affect their own paths to the Republican nomination.

Rep. Michele Bachmann enjoyed a day of lucrative fundraising, national media exposure and glowing analysis of her newfound momentum on Tuesday, following a strong performance in her first presidential debate.

She also forced her competitors to assess how she might affect their own paths to the Republican nomination.

“She did a great job of weaving in her experiences as a foster mother, a congresswoman and an attorney,” said GOP strategist Ron Bonjean, who is not affiliated with any contender. “The other candidates are now forced to personalize their stories more. I think this is just surprising — how well she did — and that was really noticed.”

Since she first floated the idea of running for president, Bachmann has been lumped in with some of the more fringe characters in the contest, in part the result of her short time on the national stage and her uncompromising views.

By turning in a confident and savvy performance, the Minnesotan at least temporarily carved a spot as a serious candidate — one whose presence will almost certainly affect the race no matter how far she goes.

The most immediate effect Bachmann will have is in Iowa, where she was born and where she could hold particular appeal among the social conservatives who dominate the first-in-the-nation caucuses.

Her newfound prominence may also effect the ongoing negotiations over the debt ceiling, which is due to be reached in August. As AP reported:

Rep. Michele Bachmann’s smooth presidential debate performance stands to make her a bigger force in the Republican Party after years of errors and hyperbole. Her new credibility could pose problems for GOP leaders trying to put together a deal with President Barack Obama on reducing the nation’s debt.

Bachmann resolutely opposes letting the government slide even deeper into debt, a position that appeals to her constituency of no-compromise tea partiers.

Her confident, nearly error-free debate showing Monday night on stage alongside six men rippled through Republican circles back in Washington. She may have the clout now to confound GOP leaders who have labored to keep the Minnesota congresswoman positioned to help the party, rather than embarrass it. Speaker John Boehner now may have to do more than just pacify her.

Boehner rejected Bachmann’s bid after last year’s elections to join the leadership as the party’s conference chair. She is the party’s top fundraiser in the House, but Republicans haven’t trusted her with the gavel of a committee or even a subcommittee.

They can’t shun her so easily now.

Asked about Bachmann’s debate performance, Boehner answered: “I think she did a really good job last night. She’s a bright member of our caucus. It’s one of the reasons why I appointed her to the Intelligence Committee.”

Bachmann has been a handful for Republicans because what she has lacked in credibility she has offered in constituency. She raised $13.5 million for the 2010 election, more than Boehner or anyone else in the House. She gave $90,000 to the National Republican Campaign Committee two months before the historic elections that made Boehner speaker, according to the Federal Election Commission. She’s also the founder and chairwoman of the Tea Party Caucus, which counts 59 members, according to a list provided by her office.

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The Republicans debated Saturday night. The New Hampshire primary is Feb. 9. Get caught up on the race.
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