How Obama could win the GOP primaries

Tea Party firebrand Michele Bachmann is soaring in the polls — alarming the GOP establishment, and greatly aiding the president's campaign

Robert Shrum

Showing that it's not only Democrats who can be "swiftboated," The Daily Caller, the conservative alternative to The Huffington Post, launched an anonymity-fuelled hit piece on Michele Bachmann's migraine headaches this week. Now, there are plenty of reasons to doubt Bachmann's fitness to be president; however, they don't involve her headaches, but a head filled with fantasies about economics, history, homosexuality, the biology of evolution, and the science of climate change. Of course, this isn't the first recent campaign smear by Republicans against Republicans — for example, the Rove-orchestrated personal assault against John McCain during the 2000 South Carolina primary.

McCain stood between the establishment favorite and the nomination. Bachmann's position is different. There's no single establishment ordinand this time; as one party operative puts it, "Mitt Romney's the weakest frontrunner in decades." But establishment Republicans suddenly fear that while Bachmann can never win a general election, she can prevail in the primaries. She has to be taken down — and you can't do it by assailing her wifty views, because that would only strengthen her with the angry hardliners likely to dominate the GOP contest. Memo to Rove, who promptly flacked The Daily Caller piece in a Fox interview (Video, via You reap what you sow, and Bachmann's rise is the unhappy harvest of a 2004 strategy that was base in both meanings of that word.

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Robert Shrum has been a senior adviser to the Gore 2000 presidential campaign, the campaign of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and the British Labour Party. In addition to being the chief strategist for the 2004 Kerry-Edwards campaign, Shrum has advised thirty winning U.S. Senate campaigns; eight winning campaigns for governor; mayors of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and other major cities; and the Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Shrum's writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The New Republic, Slate, and other publications. The author of No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner (Simon and Schuster), he is currently a Senior Fellow at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service.