For weeks, commentators have set up a "catfight narrative" for Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Sarah Palin, who could end up vying for the same conservative voters if both pursue the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. Now Ed Rollins, the seasoned Republican strategist who's just joined Bachmann's team, is fueling the same narrative, aggressively pitting the candidates against each other in an interview with Politico. Accusing Palin of toying with a presidential bid, Rollins said voters would gravitate to the brainier Bachmann: "People are going to say, 'I gotta make a choice and go with the intelligent woman who's every bit as attractive.'" Team Palin has demanded a retraction, and Rollins has expressed regret. So, did these comments benefit anyone?
Bashing Palin does Bachmann no favors: If Palin doesn't run, says William A. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection, Bachmann has a strong chance to win over social conservatives — unless Rollins alienates them with anti-Palin rhetoric first. As for other voters, "the people who hate Palin are the same people who hate Bachmann." These "smash-mouth tactics" against Palin won't change the way the long-mocked Bachmann is perceived.
"Michele Bachmann needs to dump Ed Rollins now"
This hurts Bachmann and insults Republican voters: Rollins's references to the candidates' looks "will irk many conservative voters," says John J. Pitney Jr. at National Review. His suggestion that Republicans would somehow be "less likely to support" Bachmann "if she were less attractive… is not a compliment to either Bachmann or the GOP primary electorate." Way to stumble right out of the gate, Ed.
"A gaffe right out of the gate"
Palin's not even Bachmann's competition, anyway: "Bachmann went out of her comfort zone and hired a top Republican strategist," says NBC News's First Read. Palin hasn't made a comparably bold move yet, and "probably won't ever." Bringing on Rollins elevated Bachmann to a new tier of candidates. She's not competing against Palin anymore, "she's fighting in the same space as Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, even Tim Pawlenty."
"First thoughts: The strong GOP front-runner?"