The 2012 Republican presidential field remains murky, says Ed Kilgore in The New Republic, but you can bet "an intensely ideological female politician" who's tied to the Christian right and the Tea Party movement will "define the race." Sarah Palin? No, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). The parallels between Palin and Bachmann are obvious. says Kilgore: Both are former beauty pageant contestants; both are "politically rooted in the anti-abortion movement"; and both tiptoe along the "boundary between ideologically loaded viewpoint and sheer ignorance." But Palin's poll numbers are in freefall, while Bachmann's political stock is on the rise. She's "almost an improved version" of her Alaskan "doppelganger" — "even more right wing," but "lacking many of Palin's fatal political flaws." Here, an excerpt:

Moreover, Bachmann is in excellent political position. She could certainly do well in the first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucus, particularly if Mike Huckabee also stays on the sidelines as expected, creating a hunger for a new Christian Right champion in a state where the Christian Right still walks tall. It also helps that she is actually an Iowa native living in next door Minnesota — and it’s hugely important that her very closest associate in Congress is influential Iowa Congressman Steve King. ...

Even if Bachmann doesn’t win a state outright, she could wreak havoc on the field. Given her fanaticism about root-and-branch repeal of ObamaCare, is there any doubt she would make sure every Caucus-goer knows about RomneyCare? Plus, she represents a deadly threat to the ambitions of her fellow Minnesota Republican, Tim Pawlenty, who has been quietly consolidating a position as likely Republican frontrunner: When she was a state legislator, Bachmann once assaulted a Pawlenty proposal for an enterprise zone, saying it represented Marxist principles. She won’t need an oppo research firm to dig up other alleged Pawlenty violations of conservative dogma. And it’s unlikely Pawlenty could survive running behind a fellow Minnesotan in a state so close to his own.

Read the full article at The New Republic.