House Republicans Thursday reacted strongly against Rep. Michele Bachmann’s decision to run for a top leadership post in the new majority, looking to nip in the bud any chance that she might attract support from the substantially large group of incoming freshman lawmakers.
The trick for Republicans is to keep Bachmann – the Minnesota Republican viewed by many in leadership as an unserious and unhelpful spokesman for the party – away from an elevated platform that many in the party feel would hinder or harm the GOP, without being viewed as not listening to the Tea Party movement, which supplied much of the energy that gave them a 61-seat pickup and control of the House.
Bachmann is loved by many in the conservative grassroots for her outspoken support for a wide range of conservative positions, no matter how politically incorrect. She has developed a national profile after only two terms in Congress by appearing regularly on TV. But she has attracted significant negative attention as well for comments deemed extreme or careless.
She is running against Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican, for the chairmanship of the House Republican Conference, which functions as a communications and logistics hub for the party.
Top House Republicans from Eric Cantor to Paul Ryan are firmly behind Hensarling, arguing that he is a solid conservative who will provide the very “constitutional conservatism” that Bachmann says she represents.
But Hensarling is far less well known beyond Washington and his home district of the southeast Dallas suburbs, so there is potential for average grassroots conservatives who know of Bachmann but not Hensarling to interpret the party’s support for the latter as a slight of the Tea Party.
And Bachmann could, in fact, gain traction, if a significant number of incoming freshman Republicans side with her. But Republicans made the case, strenuously, that that won’t happen.
“Bachmann will have a tough time convincing anyone that Hensarling isn’t conservative enough,” a House Republican aide told The Daily Caller. “She’ll have an even tougher time convincing the conference that she wouldn’t take our whole team down in flames with her antics.”
Another House Republican staffer aligned with the most conservative elements of the party called Hensarling “literally unbeatable.”
“A Bachmann win would be possible were she running against a no-name do-nothing member,” the Republican said. “But Jeb Hensarling has been one of the most active members of the Conference in recent years–as [Republican Study Committee] chairman, as [National Republican Congressional Committee] fundraiser, as financial services and budget guru, and as media maven.”
Bachmann aides did not respond to requests for comment.
House Republicans were helped Thursday by two well-known political figures who have significant influence with Tea Party voters: Sarah Palin and Dick Armey.
Palin, in an e-mail to The Daly Caller, declined to endorse Bachmann, even though she has been an outspoken advocate on the congresswoman’s behalf and accused Politico of sexism Thursday for using a picture of Bachmann having makeup applied to her face.
“I’m taking a position on who gets to sit in the big boy highchair this morning for breakfast… Trig or Tripp?” Palin said, referring to her son and grandson, respectively. “Leadership in the US Congress this morning? Nah … not ’till after the Cheerios,” Palin said.