Though Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) won her first congressional race in 2006, it wasn’t until the past year that she burst into the collective national consciousness. Now, the tea party darling and contender for the 2012 GOP nomination can’t be avoided. This week, The New Yorker and Newsweek published features about the Bachmann, each showcasing very different sides of the candidate: woman of steel, and blusterer-in-chief.
“You use the word ‘anger.’ It’s not anger,” Bachmann told Newsweek. Instead of showing “unhinged anger,” she said, “people are saying the country is not working.”
Though Bachmann has gained in popularity, the movement that catapulted her to the spotlight is losing steam: A New York Times/CBS poll released this week showed that 40 percent of those surveyed have a “not favorable” view of the tea party. That negative sentiment has doubled since the question was first asked in April 2010. Bachmann herself has surged in popularity, and July poll results showed her second in the GOP field, behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Bachmann insists, despite sinking popular opinion, that the tea party has the best solutions, and she stands by them.
“I do not twist in the wind,” she told Newsweek.
In the latest issue of The New Yorker, however, Ryan Lizza’s “Leap of Faith” paints a different picture of Bachmann. Less tough, more Barbie — which, coincidentally, appears to be a touchstone of Bachmann’s. She refers to her campaign plane as the “Barbie jet,” in homage to the doll’s pink plane.
Though Barbie is nothing if not mainstream, a look back at some of Bachmann’s statements about everything from evolution (“never been proven”) to same-sex marriage (it will teach our children that “maybe they should try it”) to swine flu (in spring 2009: “I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat President, Jimmy Carter. And I’m not blaming this on President Obama—I just think it’s an interesting coincidence.”) indicate that her politics are anything but.
Her campaign staff includes some ex-staffers of President George W. Bush, and her down-home folkisms are certainly reminiscent of 43.
Whether heir apparent to Bush or a new, steely breed of politician, one thing is for sure: Bachmann has claimed a stake for herself as a force to be reckoned with in the Republican primary. For the sake of, she claims, liberty.
“If there was one word on a motivation or world view, that one word would be ‘liberty,’” she told The New Yorker. “That’s what inspires me and motivates me more than anything—just the concept of freedom, liberty, what it means. Whether it’s economic liberty, religious liberty, liberty in our finances, liberty in being able to choose the profession we have. That’s what inspired my relatives to come here back in the eighteen-fifties. It was the concept of liberty. That’s what motivates me today as well.”
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