Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) kicked off her campaign for the Republican presidential nomination this week with a widely praised debate performance that instantly established her as an early contender. On a crowded stage, the Tea Party darling "was lively, confident, personable," says USA Today, "and unremittingly critical of President Obama's policies from health care to Libya." Political strategists called Bachmann the breakout star in a finally jelling GOP field. Could Bachmann really overtake presumptive frontrunner Mitt Romney? (Watch a Fox News discussion about Bachmann's rise.)

Bachmann is now a top-tier candidate: Let's be honest, the question for GOP primary voters is "Romney, or somebody else?" says Dana Milbank in The Washington Post. But he's "an unusually weak frontrunner," because conservatives aren't crazy about him. Bachmann has "emerged as the anti-Romney from the otherwise drab field." She's a real threat thanks to her "powerful appeal to the Tea-Party types who dominate Republican primaries."
"Michele Bachmann steals the show at GOP debate"

We should have taken Bachmann seriously all along: After the debate, everyone knows Bachmann isn't the dunce her critics have suggested, says Tina Korbe at Hot Air. She proved it by nailing questions on everything from fiscal issues to foreign policy. The only surprise is that this came as a surprise: "When, at Tea Party rallies or on the House floor, has she not been relatively eloquent?"
"Recap: Bachmann rocks CNN GOP presidential debate"

One good night does not make Bachmann a contender: Bachmann's polished debate showing will likely give her a lasting bounce, says Steve Kornacki at Salon, perhaps big enough to make her "a serious threat in Iowa." Of course, if the primaries become a one-on-one race between her and Romney or Tim Pawlenty, GOP elites will probably flock to the moderate in terror. But that's a long way off. Stay tuned.
"Michele Bachmann's coming-out party"