Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Goofy Punditry Alert

More minor presidential campaign news yesterday: Michele Bachmann signed up veteran GOP famous guy Ed Rollins to run her campaign.

Outside of my skepticism about whether Rollins is actually any good at the job -- yes, he did help navigate Mike Huckabee to a win in Iowa in 2008, but other than that his big claim to fame was managing Ronald Reagan's re-election campaign in 1984, which wasn't exactly piloting the Miracle Mets or anything like that -- what really puzzles me is Mark Halperin's reaction:
This is bad news for Tim Pawlenty (Rollins managed Huckabee to an Iowa caucuses win four years ago) and great news for Romney (a strong Bachmann will push the establishment faster into the arms of the frontrunner.
This seems to be, as far as I can tell, a complete misreading of the GOP field. Pawlenty is running as the all-of-the-above candidate; he stands to win if Republicans want a normally credentialed nominee who is solid on every issue without being crazy and if, for a variety of possible reasons, the party rejects Mitt Romney.

As such, he certainly needs to demonstrate at least some ability to draw votes in Iowa, but that's about it; most of what matters to Pawlenty is whether any other candidate shows up who encroaches on his turf, and then what happens to Romney. Bachmann is mostly irrelevant to that.

Now, it could play out the way that Halperin I suppose sees it: Pawlenty finishes well back in Iowa, Bachmann looks like a threat to win the nomination, and Romney is the only one remaining to stop her. But really, the key is Pawlenty doing bad, not the rest of it. If, for example, Iowa finishes Bachmann/Pawlenty/Romney, well, it's just as likely that the former Minnesota governor becomes the focus of Stop Bachmann efforts.

My best guess is that Bachmann is massively overrated by those who pay a lot of attention to cable news networks; I suspect she won't wear well as a presidential candidate. But I guess the main point here is that I'm not at all convinced that it matters very much exactly how well she does in Iowa. She wins or she finishes a weak third or fizzles out and places sixth -- either way, Republicans who want a candidate who is acceptable to conservatives and also promises to be a respectable nominee are choosing between Pawlenty and Romney (and, if he gets in, Rick Perry).


  1. Agreed, to the extent that I think the media overrate Bachmann and that Pawlenty is the only viable anti-Romney candidate.

    Another goofy thing about Halperin's analysis (and that of the media in general), is that Huckabee didnt sign Ed Rollins until he found himself as the front-runner in Iowa. The earliest reference I could find was 14 DEC 07, a mere 3 weeks before the caucuses. The point is, Huckabee won Iowa largely on his own, with wonderful debate performances and no other serious social conservatives to challenege his turf.

    Bringing in Rollins was seen, at the time, as Huckabee's last ditch attempt to become nationally viable after a suprise run to the top of the Iowa polls. Sure, Huckabee went on to finish second in terms of delegates, but only because he continued to stay in the race to boost his future earnings prospects. Once he lost South Carolina to McCain, it was clear that Rollins had not been successful in widening his appeal.

    It's odd to me that the media dont seem to remember this.



  2. You're absolutely right it's between Pawlenty and Romney. But I get the feeling Pawlenty (who is younger) is running now so he is set up 2016, while it is Romney's turn.

    And yes, pundits are only taking Bachman seriously because, well they take all potential candidates seriously (ie Donald Trump).

  3. When has Mark Halperin ever been right on anything? Why he is still considered a credible pundit is beyond me.


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