Michele Bachmann isn’t going to be the Republican nominee for president this cycle, but that doesn’t mean her candidacy won’t have merit or an impact on who ultimately wins the nomination.
A presidential run for the Minnesota Congresswoman-turned-Tea-Party-standard-bearer won’t be without its fair share of false starts or false steps. But as long as her candidacy doesn’t completely implode, her very presence in the Republican field creates dangers for the more established candidates regardless of whether she wins or loses.
Let’s assume for a minute that she runs but doesn’t win.
At some point, whoever is left standing will want the support of her and the army of grassroots supporters she commands.
That means direct attacks on her run the risk of alienating a base of people the eventual primary winner will need.
But what if she does run to win?
If the field is Romney, Pawlenty, Gingrich, Huntsman, Santorum, Paul and Cain — no Mitch Daniels and no Sarah Palin — there’s a good base of primary voters who, not feeling overly enthusiastic about any one nominee, might be inclined to channel their energy and support toward Bachmann.
Can you imagine what the response would be if Palin opted not to run and instead endorsed Bachmann?
While the values voters left behind due to Mike Huckabee’s decision to sit the Republican primary out will splinter between Pawlenty, Santorum and Huntsman, Bachmann can also viably appeal to a number of them. A marriage between Palin’s followers and just some of Huckabee’s supporters could be a potent force in the early contests.
To impact the race, Bachmann doesn’t need to win in any of the early contests in New Hampshire, Iowa or South Carolina; she just needs to finish in the top three.
Looking back at 2008, the top three finishers in New Hampshire received 37%, 32% and 11% respectively. In Iowa: 34%, 25% and 13%. South Carolina: 33%, 29% and 15%.
Essentially, garnering at least 15% of the vote is enough to finish third in the early contests. Given that, it really isn’t that farfetched to imagine the only candidate in the primary with the full support of the Tea Party movement receiving at least 15% of the vote in New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina.
If Bachmann were to be in the top three early on, what does it say about the other four or five guys who don’t? Can they make a credible case to stay in the race? You can’t really make the case for Bachmann to get out if she’s consistently outperforming more “traditional” candidates.
She may not be able to win the whole thing, but she sure can ensure that some people don’t either.
There are many reasons why Michele Bachmann won’t be the Republican nominee, but if she so chooses, she can leave an indelible impact on the GOP primary field.
Kurt Bardella is the current Communications Director for The Daily Caller and is a former Congressional Republican spokesman.