A Time magazine blog post this morning by Mike Murphy looks at the impact of Michele Bachmann’s surge in Iowa on the other Republican campaigns.
It includes this rather snide and dire remark about Tim Pawlenty:
Meanwhile, poor Tim Pawlenty thumbs through the St. Paul Yellow Pages looking for a discreet therapist. For years, Bachmann sat howling on the noisy backbenches in the Minnesota senate while Pawlenty became the Sun King of state Republican power. Now Bachmann is the new Queen of Iowa, and Pawlenty, at 6% in the Register poll, cannot get arrested. That and a slew of bad press reviews after his New Hampshire debate performance have put his fundraising prospects in peril.
What to make of all this? For starters, a Bachmann candidacy is catnip for the social-conservative wing of the GOP. It’s been waiting for a true believer, and unless Texas Governor Rick Perry decides to jump in late, Bachmann can grab a sizable piece of the GOP base, especially in Iowa and South Carolina. Her narrative of a tax lawyer turned anti-government crusader is the perfect Tea Party rewrite of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
Already, the Bachmann boomlet has reset the expectations game in Iowa. The odds on Palin’s jumping into the race lengthen once again. With Pawlenty fighting to survive in Iowa, Jon Huntsman has an easier shot at breaking through in New Hampshire. The Huntsman hype machine must switch from selling the idea of his candidacy to reporters to selling the man himself to real voters. Without stronger New Hampshire poll numbers in the fall, the only precinct Huntsman is likely to carry will be the Morning Joe roundtable. The hopeful news for both Pawlenty and Huntsman is that for most primary voters, the campaign has yet to begin.
As for Romney? This guy thinks he’s sitting pretty:
I’ll bet dollars to Minnesota lutefisk that despite her new squad of professional handlers, we are in for more of Bachmann’s factual fumbles. Her latest mix-up, confusing the birthplace of beloved American icon John Wayne with that of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, hints that Michele’s next moves on the national stage may receive more than a few boos and flying vegetables from the voting public. While media criticism of her factually erroneous rhetoric will only help her with her populist base, what is gold for America’s comedians is a 500-ton lead sinker for any candidate trying to build enough party-wide support to actually win the Republican nomination.
This is why the uncontrolled giggling you hear coming from behind the big blue curtain is from Mitt Romney, who must be delirious with joy. For Romney, a two-way contest with Bachmann is a strategic dream come true. (Disclaimer: I worked for Romney in 2002.) It would draw attention and money away from his two real rivals, Huntsman and Pawlenty, and give him a simple race against a candidate who would remove much of the ambivalence many big-league Republicans still harbor about him. Make no mistake: faced with the terrifying prospect of nominating Bachmann and handing the presidency to Obama, the Republican establishment would rally hard and fast behind Romney. And while a unified Republican establishment in full combat mode cannot compete with the Tea Party when it comes to making cardboard Uncle Sam hats, GOP Inc. can easily crush a candidate like Bachmann over the full series of primaries.
But for now, front runner Romney is more than happy to lie low and let Bachmann eclipse the rest of the GOP field. For now, Michele Bachmann is the change Mitt Romney’s been waiting for.