WASHINGTON — Rep. Michele Bachmann may have missed out on a spot in the House GOP leadership, but make no mistake, she’ll be a major player in the next session. Sure, we said that earlier this week, but don’t just take my word for it.
No less than the New York Times and Washington Post are out with profiles of the House Tea Party Caucus founder, both arriving at the same conclusion.
She is a driving force on cable television, a provocative, ubiquitous voice in a world where the distinction between personality and power is increasingly blurred. Now, with Republicans poised to retake the House, lawmakers are watching Ms. Bachmann to see if she can harness her status as an uncompromising — and sometimes undisciplined — spokeswoman for conservative principles and turn it into real legislative influence.
There is not infrequently an inverse relationship on Capitol Hill between visibility and the clout to shape policy, cut deals and otherwise make a lasting mark. Ms. Bachmann learned that lesson this month when she ran for her party’s No. 4 position in the House as a self-styled leader of the Tea Party movement, only to withdraw when it became clear she was attracting little support — even as her willingness to promote an unfounded report that President Obama’s trip to India would cost taxpayers $200 million a day kept her front and center in the cable-politics mosh pit.
Ms. Bachmann, first elected in 2006, said she was eager to work with her party — “I’ve heard nothing from the leaders other than espousing the principles of the Tea Party and their fervent commitment to stand by those ideals,” she said — but she is also willing to shake things up, and is working to organize Tea Party-affiliated Republicans into a voting bloc in the House.
Her Republican colleagues made it clear that she would not have a seat at the leadership table when they take control of the House in January. Rep. Michele Bachmann, they whispered, is too loud, too unruly, too tea party.
But as the Minnesota Republican strode out of the Capitol the other day and onto a leaf-strewn lawn to soak in the love of a few hundred tea party activists waiting to see her, it was undeniable that there are still plenty of people who believe loud, unruly and tea party are just what Congress needs.
If Speaker-to-be John A. Boehner (Ohio) is the commander of the 240-plus Republicans who will be seated in the 112th Congress, Bachmann is a favorite of many of the voters who elected them.