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Big Bachmann splash: Newsweek cover, New Yorker profile

MORNING EDITION ALSO: A chupacabra in Minnesota? T-Paw supporters want strong debate; Wisconsin’s big day; and more.
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Our Favorite Congresswoman has made the cover of Newsweek, which is still being published, in case you forgot. Titled “The Queen of Rage,” the Michele Bachmann story, by Lois Romano, covers no new ground. It does says: “The elderly, the unemployed, the exasperated, and even a few disillusioned Democrats crowd her rallies and cheer her not-going-to-take-it-anymore shtick, even as they recognize some of its inherent contradictions. … But far more damaging than the charge of double standards may be the growing realization among Americans of just how radical the Tea Party movement really is. The willingness of its most committed members to risk national default for the sake of achieving its political goals has no doubt contributed to the dramatic rise in the number of Americans who view the movement unfavorably. In a New York Times/CBS News poll published on Aug. 5, 40 percent of respondents described their opinion of the Tea Party as ‘not favorable’ — up from 18 percent in April 2010. At a time of population growth, increasing health-care costs, swelling ranks of retirees, and a sharp and prolonged economic slump — all of which point to the need for increases in federal spending just to meet government’s existing obligations — Bachmann and her Tea Party allies demand that Washington spend less.” … A LOT less.

Really? A chupacabra … in Minnesota? That’s what Fox News is saying: “Minnesota state officials are baffled by a mysterious carcass found on a county road, prompting further investigation — leading to speculation that it may be a boar, an ox, or even a chupacabra. The hairless white creature was discovered with five claws, dark tufts of hair on its back, and long toenails. With experts unable to identify the mystery mammal, people started talking. Lacey Ilse told KSAX-TV she was driving near her home on County Road 86, south of Alexandria, when she spotted the mysterious mammal. ‘We saw something in the middle of the road, and we knew it wasn’t a dog or a cat, because it didn’t have hair. It had a clump of hair and all the rest was just white skin,’ Ilse said. ‘Its ear was all misshaped. To me, it looked like half-human.’ Some folks believe it to be a chupacabra. First guess was a badger with like, a case of mange,’ Noelle Jones told KSAX-TV. ‘But then, some other people were saying, like a chupacabra. And after looking at some pictures, I was like, ‘you know, it’s possible.’ “

T-Paw’s supporters want to see some fire out their boy in the FoxNews debate in Iowa. Shannon Travis of CNN says: “At a small gathering of voters at a coffee shop in Johnston, Iowa on Monday, the former Minnesota governor was told by a supporter in the crowd, ‘You’ve got to be up there and give them hell.’ ‘We will’, Pawlenty replied. He then urged the crowd to support his candidacy in Saturday’s Ames straw poll that will test his organization and popularity in Iowa along with that of the other candidates. The governor’s response suggests his manner could be far more confrontational than the last time he faced off with Bachmann, Romney and the other candidates. … If Pawlenty decides to display that amped up effort on Thursday in Ames, it would be the first time he’s gone on the attack against Romney and Bachmann while in their presence. After Monday’s event in Johnston, CNN asked Pawlenty exactly who he’d ‘give hell’ at the debate. Pawlenty responded that President Obama would receive a fair amount of criticism, acknowledging he’s listening to supporters who want him to ‘strike the right balance between Minnesota nice and holding the president accountable … for his broken promises and the failures of the economy and his presidency.’ ” So … giving ’em heck will have to do.

At The Huffington Post, Chris Weigant argues that the real story this week is over in Wisconsin: “[T]he media should pay more attention to what is happening in Wisconsin this week, because rather than some “vote”-buying exercise (that always proves itself to be completely meaningless in the grand scheme of the presidential election process), Wisconsin could prove to be a much better weathervane in terms of predicting which way the political winds will be blowing, come next year. The less said about the Iowa straw poll the better, actually. The entire thing is an obscene display of how party machinery and blatant vote-buying have absolutely nothing to do with American voters actually choosing their president. The winner of the straw poll does not have any sort of ‘lock’ on the state of Iowa, and indeed is often not even one of the top-tier candidates in the actual election. The only thing it accurately measures is the ability of each candidate to organize and pay for the massive people-moving which is required to do well in the straw poll (those buses to get ‘your’ supporters to the straw poll don’t pay for themselves, in other words). But beyond organizational, boots-on-the-ground mechanics, the straw poll measures precisely nothing of any real-world value (or even political-world value, for that matter). Not so what will take place in Wisconsin [today].”

Over at Salon, Natasha Lennard looks at each of Wisconsin’s recall elections and says: “The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent reports that “Democrats are very nervous,” while the National Review’s Robert Costa writes that “Republicans are worried.” Despite millions having been spent on TV ads, mailers, and rallying events on both sides, voter turnout is still a concern. As Sargent notes: [Democrats] claim their private polling shows them ahead or tied in all six races targeting GOPers for recall, while the two Dems being targeted seem safe. Beltway observers like Stuart Rothenberg are confident Dems are on track to win. In reality, Democrats know full well their bid to take back the state senate could still fail … Here’s why. While it’s become a tedious cliche to point out that in the end elections all come down to turnout, in the case of the Wisconsin recall elections it really will prove decisive.”

Mary Spicuzza of The Wisconsin State Journal sets up recall day, saying: “Cash flowing into the recall elections from third-party interest groups already has approached $30 million, election watchdogs say, and total spending by third-party groups and candidates could top $40 million. That total would double spending on all 116 of last fall’s state legislative races combined. About $19.25 million was spent in those races for 17 Senate seats and 99 Assembly seats, which included 312 candidates on the primary ballot and 225 candidates in the November 2010 general election, said Mike McCabe, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign executive director. … Many also view these races as a sign of whether Walker will face recall next year — and even as an indicator of President Barack Obama’s chances to win re-election in 2012. That likely explains why the Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama PAC, a Sacramento, Calif.-based organization formed to support conservative 2012 presidential candidates, is involved in the Wisconsin recalls. It sponsored a TV ad last month backing the six GOP senators up for recall on Tuesday and accusing liberal groups backed by Obama of being behind the recall efforts. That was just one of dozens of TV ads by third-party groups in recent months.”

Apparently Rolling Stone is cutting corners on the copy desk. A blog post by Stoner Laura Lipsay says: “The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, in a lengthy profile of GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann, finds that the Wisconsin congresswoman ‘belongs to a generation of Christian conservatives whose views have been shaped by institutions, tracts, and leaders not commonly known to secular Americans, or even to most Christians.’ “

The Lizza story is well worth the read. I mean, he got to ride the private jet with the Bachmanns back and forth between Iowa and New Hampshire at the time of her “John Wayne Gacy” gaffe. Interestingly, the long piece has exactly one paragraph-worth of interaction with Bachmann herself. Stuff like this is good though: “Bachmann usually describes herself vaguely as a ‘former federal tax litigation attorney,’ but, in part because she was new, she didn’t do much litigating. I talked with six of Bachmann’s former colleagues in the small I.R.S. office where she worked. Three of them still work there. No one would speak on the record, but they all said that Bachmann was not on the job long enough to gain much experience. Two of Bachmann’s five children were born while she worked for the I.R.S., and all six former colleagues said that the primary fact they remembered about Bachmann was that she spent a good portion of her time on maternity leave — the I.R.S. had a fairly generous policy — and that caused resentment. ‘Basically, the rest of us that were here were handling Michele’s inventory,’ one former colleague said. ‘In her four years, she probably didn’t get more than two, two and a half years of experience. So she was doing lightweight stuff.’ A second colleague said, ‘She was an attorney here, but she was never here.’ (Bachmann declined a request to respond.) Many of the cases she worked on were settled without going to trial, and there is only one Bachmann case on file that ended up in a courtroom. According to court documents, in 1992 Bachmann sought six thousand dollars in taxes from a Chippewa Indian who failed to report three years of income from Youth Project, Inc., a community-organizing nonprofit dedicated to ‘social justice and peace.’ Bachmann doesn’t like to say directly that she worked for the ‘I.R.S.,’ but she often cites her work in the tax office as part of the reason she’s qualified to be President. The job, her campaign Web site declares, ‘solidified her strong support for efforts to simplify the Tax Code and reduce tax burdens on family and small business budgets.’ ”

The feds are offering waivers on No Child Left Behind, and Minnesota wants one. Says the Strib’s Rachel Stassen-Berger: “Gov. Mark Dayton said Minnesota will apply to opt out of the federal No Child Left Behind education policy. The waivers will be offered to all states that meet other education reform requirements. The Associated Press said that in states where waivers are granted, ‘schools will get some relief from looming deadlines to meet testing goals.’ Reports said more information about the waivers will be available next month. But Dayton, along with other governors, isn’t waiting. He said he wants Minnesota to apply to opt out.”