Based on my own observations in the House, I would have been stunned if you had told me Michele Bachmann would ever seriously contend for the presidency. Nothing about her abilities as a politician or legislator ever marked her as that kind of talent.
But it does not require sympathy for her candidacy to be repelled by the ugliness and the venom of the whispering campaign that is underway against her. It proves first, that the liberal blogosphere is as crudely toxic as the right-wing blogosphere has always been.
Second, the coverage in mainstream media of unattributed allegations from individuals with an axe to grind is a dangerous lowering of the bar. Standards still have a role to play in the coverage of a presidential race, and some of those standards are being shredded in the zeal to “unmask” Bachmann.
I think Michele Bachmann is on the verge of opening up a sizable lead in Iowa and that she is about to become an explosive online, grassroots fund-raising force in the next several months. If she wins Iowa, there is enough of a conservative base for her to compete effectively in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida.
But I am unconvinced that she can sweep those states and avoid a protracted three-month fight in the northern battleground states that she is not well-positioned to win. If Romney is still standing, he will be the choice of an establishment and a traditional donor base that doubts Bachmann’s elecability and suspects that she jeopardizes the Republican hold on the House, and the drumbeat against her general election vulnerability will take a toll.
The defining question: if Bachmann is surging early next year, is she running competitively in the polls with Barack Obama or not? If she is the nomination will be within her reach; if not it simply won’t happen.