Here’s the difference between Bachmann and Palin: While Palin is clearly bored by the dreary, laborious aspects of campaigning and seems far more interested in gobbling up the ancillary benefits of reality-show celebrity, Bachmann is ruthlessly goal-oriented, a relentless worker who has the attention span to stay on message at all times. With a little imagination, you can even see a clear path for her to the nomination. Though she outraged Des Moines Republicans by blowing off a party dinner in late May, she had already visited the state four times this year and scored key endorsements there. Obamacare progenitor Mitt Romney has already half-conceded Iowa by dropping out of the straw poll there, leaving fellow Minnesotan Tim Pawlenty as Bachmann’s main competition for the first big prize of the race…
Even other Republicans, it seems, are making the mistake of laughing at Bachmann. But consider this possibility: She wins Iowa, then swallows the Tea Party and Christian vote whole for the next 30 or 40 primaries while Romney and Pawlenty battle fiercely over who is the more “viable” boring-white-guy candidate. Then Wall Street blows up again — and it’s Barack Obama and a soaring unemployment rate versus a white, God-fearing mother of 28 from the heartland.
It could happen. Michele Bachmann has found the flaw in the American Death Star. She is a television camera’s dream, a threat to do or say something insane at any time, the ultimate reality-show protagonist. She has brilliantly piloted a media system that is incapable of averting its eyes from a story, riding that attention to an easy conquest of an overeducated cultural elite from both parties that is far too full of itself to understand the price of its contemptuous laughter. All of those people out there aren’t voting for Michele Bachmann. They’re voting against us. And to them, it turns out, we suck enough to make anyone a contender.
Do I think this is likely? No; I still think at this point that Romney wins the nomination, although this far out neither I nor anyone else really has a clue.
But do I think this scenario is plausible? Yes, absolutely. It is impossible to overestimate the incidence of batsh*t insanity in my fellow reliable GOP primary voters. They live in Bizarro World, where factual refutations of their beliefs are just more evidence of the conspiracy.
It is equally impossible to overestimate the appetite of TV for people who are willing to do, or unable to refrain from doing, outlandish things. In a media environment even slightly less toxic than the current one, people like Sarah Palin would have been lost to memory a long time ago.
The nomination is probably Romney’s to lose. But there is no guarantee he won’t lose it. If he does, he most plausibly does so to Bachmann, thus giving us a 2012 general-election contest between Inept and Insane. And in a world gone crazy, I don’t want to put one thin dime down on that outcome.