Michele Bachmann's stock is plummeting, but she has a chance in tonight's debate to come back — and directly face Rick Perry, who's been pilfering her base. That said, there will be so much to miss about her candidacy if it all falls apart.
Not only are Bachmann's poll numbers slipping, she's been abandoned by key campaign staff and possibly donors. Tonight's Republican debate at the Reagan library may yet bring some breakthroughs, namely in the first-ever social conservative/tea party darling faceoff between Bachmann and Perry. As David Corn puts it, "Bachmann's mission will be to take the shine off Perry's boots."
If she doesn't, here's what we can fondly look back on.
Her anti-choice, anti-gay bonafides and views on a woman's role.
From her panicked fantasies of being "kidnapped" by a lesbian who was trying to ask her questions, to her blithely signing a "family values" pledge when it included a paean to black families being better off during slavery, to her husband's advocacy of therapy to cure gays, Bachmann has helped mainstream the recent permutation of the most paranoid, retrograde politics around gender, marriage, and sexuality. It starts, of course, at home — with her statements on being a submissive wife, and the subsequent Orwellian declaration that "submission" means "respect." And then it gets legislated for everyone else!
We haven't even gotten to her views on abortion — she supports a bill that would ban abortion at the detection of the first heartbeat, she would ban it entirely, she was obsessed with defunding Planned Parenthood, she thinks the best way to ensure that the Supreme Court doesn't impose its morality on America is to impose her morality on the Constitution to override Roe v. Wade. Which brings us to...
Her willingness to say or suggest anything, no matter how factually challenged or inconsistent.
Recently: "I didn't say we should drill in the Everglades." (Yeah, she basically did.) There was the family reunion debacle. But it goes back way earlier than that and gets far more dangerous, like when, as a congresswoman, she tried to incite anti-Census feelings by linking it to internment camps for Japanese-Americans: "I'm not saying that's what the Administration is planning to do. But I am saying that private, personal information that was given to the census bureau in the 1940s was used against Americans to round them up."
The debate over her looks and whether we should be talking about her looks.
In response to a Pawlenty aide referring to her "sex appeal," Bachmann said in July, "Well, listen, I'm 55 years old. I've given birth to five kids and I've raised 23 foster kids, so that sounds like good news to me." Her aides don't want her to be photographed in cargo pants. There is an artificial trend of women asking for her hairstyle.
The tales of rage.
Her staff has been doing most of the manhandling lately, but there are also the past stories of what happened when Bachmann was crossed, including mechanically repeating "You will pay, you will pay," to a weeping Republican activist who dared oppose her nomination. The AP has calculated that over the past four years Bachmann has had six chiefs of staff, five press secretaries, five legislative directors and three communications directors. Then again, if she does pull a Pawlenty, all of those former campaign and Hill aides will be freer to tell all.