Bachmann comments throw ‘silent’ Reince Priebus, GOP off message

Reince Priebus

When Reince Priebus, the chairman of the National Republican Committee, spoke to the Elephant Club Monday at the Minneapolis Hilton, he had to sidestep the debris left by the 110-pound elephant in the room.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has pushed Minnesota Republicans and operatives like Priebus either off message or into a cone of silence after her remarks accusing Congressman Keith Ellison and a top State Department aide of ties to anti-American Muslim organizations.

Priebus and Congressman Erik Paulsen on Monday were notable examples.

The RNC chairman could have had a strong message to deliver to the Twin Cities media. He had some positive talking points — a new poll showing Mitt Romney within 6 points of Barack Obama in Minnesota; a state party that’s survived a financial crisis and is attempting a turnaround; and a capacity crowd that proved the chairman of the party is an excellent recruitment tool.

However, Priebus refused any media availability, despite the Minnesota GOP’s best efforts to offer him up to the press. And when one reporter — me — showed up at the Elephant Club, Priebus was hustled into a private dining room under what constituted heavy guard to protect him against a single member of the press corps.   The reason, spoken only off the record, was to avoid comment on Bachmann.

Paulsen, however, couldn’t avoid comment.

Reporters at the Capitol in St. Paul swarmed him during his appearance at a legislative committee to talk about reducing taxes on medical devices.  It’s an important issue in his 3rd Congressional District and one on which he has bipartisan support from the Minnesota delegation.  But Paulsen’s precious time in the media spotlight had to be focused on Bachmann, whose remarks on the Muslim Brotherhood he called “not appropriate” and not true.  

Republican communications consultants, who also deem it necessary to stay off the record, say that Bachmann’s comments per se are only part of the problem. Frankly, they say, people have come to expect outrageousness from her. She does inflame liberals and alienate moderates, but her voter base, nationally and in her congressional district, never seems to flag in its support.  

At the moment, the Bachmann problem for Republicans is that she’s driving the conversation — and not in the direction they want to go. “Just because it’s good for her doesn’t mean its good for everyone,” said one consultant. “Everyone wants to talk about the economy. Instead, politicians are talking about the infiltration of the State Department.”

Ultimately, most Republicans don’t see Bachmann’s current round of flame throwing as permanently damaging. She is too unique a political figure to spawn look-alikes. And politicians have refrained from wrapping themselves around her particular brand of politics. Some, including Paulsen, John McCain and John Boehner have been forced to be critical.

Still, there was a moment in Minnesota on Monday when Republicans could have been talking about lowering taxes, the direction of the economy and the strength of their presidential candidate.  Instead, they were talking about the issues that Michele Bachmann wants to talk about, or they weren’t talking at all

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Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 07/23/2012 - 03:52 pm.


    Paulsen’s comment, when forced to make a comment, was “I think her comments were not appropriate. I don’t think they were accurate,”

    That’s criticism?

    Paulsen is channeling his inner Neville Chamberlain. Quite the display of political courage.

  2. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/23/2012 - 04:00 pm.


    If Mr. Preibus and his pals had any integrity, he would publicly denounce Rep. Bachmann. That would mean alienating the official party from the lunatic base that she cultivates so well, bring about ringing denunciations from the menagerie that is talk radio, and get him branded as a “traitor.” Still, it would be the right thing to do on so many levels.

    No, I’m not holding my breath.

  3. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 07/23/2012 - 04:16 pm.

    Leadership Bankrupt

    More evidence the republican leadership is bankrupt. They can’t even denounce the obvious. Voter’s there is a strong republican message in their silence. They are not just bankrupt they are totally bankrupt. I’m sure they will huddle and come out with some sort of a weak, meaningless ,party line denunciation of Bachmann. It won’t be too harsh though because they need her to attract all the attention away from their weak candidates who don’t have any ideas and no intentions of working for everybody. Voters make your choice of they type government you want in November.

  4. Submitted by ALAN BELISLE on 07/23/2012 - 05:13 pm.

    Paulsen and Bachmann

    Paulsen’s main talents are slinking around in the deep grass below the radar and following the party line. The fact that even he lifted his head long enough to comment just goes to show how big an embarrassment Bachmann has become. For the sake of Minnesota and the rest of the country, let’s hope she keeps it up and gets tossed out in November.

  5. Submitted by Lou Singhand on 07/23/2012 - 06:34 pm.

    sounds like they might consider her a “useful idiot”?

  6. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 07/23/2012 - 09:20 pm.

    Huh? “a state party that’s survived a financial crisis”? Shouldn’t they pay their creditor and be in the black before you declare this mess to be behind them?

  7. Submitted by Rod Loper on 07/24/2012 - 07:15 am.

    What “leadership”?

    How does she get on the intelligence committee? How does she get away with attacking the
    Secretary of State’s top aide as pro Muslim Brotherhood while they are travelling in Egypt
    in pro Mubarak territory? She is a security risk as well as a loose cannon.

  8. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 07/24/2012 - 07:36 am.

    everybody understands….

    what she stands for. In the 60s and 70s conservatives used certain polite code words to let the racists know that they were the party to vote for. Then the politicians could deny being racists and say their words were misinterpreted. So now the racists gather around the hatred of the Muslims instead of black native-born Americans. Bachmann is there to announce to the racists and religious bigots that the Republicans are on their side. And they all understand that the game has to be played this way.

    • Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 07/24/2012 - 06:12 pm.


      Racists and religious bigots.Compared to who?

      Mr. Schletzer – why don’t you go to and watch video #3504 – “Egyptian Actors Pranked on Candid Camera Turn Violent When Told TV Channel Is Israeli”.

      Let me know what you think, then I’ll give you a chance to retract your accusation.

  9. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 07/24/2012 - 09:12 am.

    MN GOP

    The MN GOP has more problems than a squirrel in a snake pit. If any of them get re-elected it will be a surprise. Not only can’t Bachmann keep her mouth shut, but the State GOP is going to spend a 1/4 to a 1/2 a million dollars of taxpayers money to keep their sex secrets behind closed doors.

  10. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 07/24/2012 - 09:57 am.

    “You people” just don’t get it….

    having Bachmann around provides a distraction for every other mess the GOP finds themselves in.

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