Opinion Brief

Michele Bachmann: Not ready for prime time?

Even as the presidential hopeful tops the polls, she can't help tripping herself up with high-profile gaffes. Can she possibly survive a full campaign?

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) officially launched her presidential campaign on Monday, and it's been a roller coaster ever since. The good news: Voters love her. Bachmann is soaring in the polls, even leading her GOP rivals in two states. The bad news: She's drowning in bad ink. Bachmann faced suggestions that she's a "flake," doubled down on her claim that the Founding Fathers "worked tirelessly" to end slavery, mixed up American icon John Wayne with clown-loving serial killer John Wayne Gacy, endured a "vitriolic" profile in Rolling Stone, and got in a spat with rocker Tom Petty for using one of his songs without permission. If this is just week one, can she survive the scrutiny of a serious presidential run?

Bachmann will do more than survive. She's a star: The sexist media is running Bachmann through the same "punishing gauntlet" to which it subjects all conservative women, says Mark McKinnon at The Daily Beast. But the media won't stop Bachmann merely by force-feeding us her "gaffes in 10-second fixes," while ignoring those of her male rivals and President Obama. She's "a rock star" among the social conservatives who vote in caucuses and primaries, and she's a fundraising powerhouse."Bachmann's no joke"

And she already aced "the laugh test": Bachmann may have a "tenuous relationship with the facts," says Jonathan Capehart in The Washington Post. But judging from her TV appearances this week, "there’s no doubt that the newest official candidate for the Republican nomination is ready for prime time." Her "newfound discipline and focus" are impressive, and she showed she can "completely and convincingly" dodge any question about her spotty record with the truth."Michele Bachmann continues to pass the laugh test"

Wait until Bachmann's more serious liabilities emerge: Yes, Bachmann is already rising above her "well-earned reputation as a fringe character...," says Ed Kilgore at The New Republic. But now that she's a 2012 frontrunner, she'll face heightened scrutiny and a period of "enormous peril." She'll survive the "civics test" gotchas, like slavery and the Founding Fathers. But her "hard-core Christian Right" beliefs could hurt her among mainstream voters. That is, if the media dispenses with its wall-to-wall coverage of her silly gaffes and digs into Bachmann's far-Right past."Michele Bachmann: Can she survive being taken seriously?"

Plus, Republicans can do better: I agree with Bachmann "on 99 percent of the issues," but "she is not prepared to assume the White House in 2013," says former Bachmann chief of staff Ron Carey in The Des Moines Register. She is "unable, or unwilling, to handle the basic duties of a campaign or congressional office," and while she's a faithful conservative and great orator, she doesn't have "any leadership experience or real results from her years in office.""Bachmann is so not ready for presidency, but Pawlenty..."

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