Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann will announce in June her plans for 2012. Many speculate that Bachmann’s announcement, which she says she will make in Waterloo, Iowa, the city of her birth, will kick off a bid for the presidency.
Attractive and conservative, Bachmann has been compared with former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin since she gained national prominence.
Those comparisons will likely persist if Bachmann enters the race for the White House. With women historically rare on presidential tickets, there are few role models from whose example Bachmann can learn. Palin is one of the few — whether or not she decides to run for president herself.
So what can Bachmann take away from Palin’s time as a vice-presidential candidate on the campaign trail? According to former Palin aides, supporters and neutral political analysts, much.
Former Palin aide Michael Goldfarb told TheDC that one of the most important things Bachmann should learn from Palin is the manner in which the former Alaska governor related to Americans — ignoring the media and taking her message directly to the grassroots.
“She was never going to get a fair shake from the media,” said Goldfarb. “The same can be said of Bachmann. It is obvious the media does not take Bachmann seriously. They don’t take her views seriously and they don’t take the view of her supporters seriously even though that is a huge segment of the Republican Party and the country.”
Goldfarb explained that Palin was and continues to be very adept at bringing her message directly to the people — something Bachmann ought to emulate.
“Palin was very effective at this,” he said. “If you look back at her record, take the health care debate for example, Palin did not hold elected office, and certainly didn’t hold office in Congress, I’d say she had a much larger effect on that debate with her rhetoric about death panels…than any other politician in the country I’d say. I think that is the way Bachmann can look at it. She doesn’t need the approval of mainstream media.”
Another thing Bachmann can learn from Palin, according University of Virginia’s Center for Politics director Larry Sabato, is her ability to jab at the media, without appearing angry or hateful.
“Within the GOP base, Sarah Palin prospered whenever she talked tough, associated herself with conservative positions while attacking liberal views, and went after the mainstream (‘lamestream’) news media. She usually did it with humor, with a smile and a wink,” Sabato noted. “Palin let her charisma flow, and she didn’t temper her message to please pundits or voters whose support she would never get. All of this worked for her, and it can easily be applied by Bachmann.”
Former Palin aides said that Bachmann should give as much consideration to the internal workings of her campaign as the external optics.
One former Palin aide told TheDC that Bachmann needs to surround herself with her own people.
“Palin was at a disadvantage in 2008: she was a team player with no team,” the former aide said. “She just did not have the infrastructure other male candidates did.”
The source added that it will be key for Bachmann to keep a devoted staff who are focused on her and her success.
“Women tend to be collaborative, but in this setting all things are politics,” the former aide added. “She needs to have people around her who she trusts and whose loyalty is with her.”
Although the aide did not refer to Palin’s troubles, a number of former McCain campaign staffers did attack Palin in the press during and after McCain’s failed presidential run.
“[S]he is playing for her own future and sees herself as the next leader of the party,” a different McCain adviser told CNN in October of 2008. “Remember: Divas trust only unto themselves, as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom.”
Indeed the lack of trust resulted in Palin “going rogue,” as she later titled her book.
“She’s lost confidence in most of the people on the [campaign] plane,” a Palin insider told Politico, adding that she is inclined to go and do things her own way.
A McCain supporter, who spent time campaigning with the duo, told TheDC that the differences between men and women do play a factor on the campaign trail that most don’t think about.
“[M]aybe its because men have been in this [campaign] world for so long, and now that women are entering the arena there is a little bit of extra scrutiny,” the supporter said. “I think women have things to juggle like clothing — a guy wears a suit all day and can take off his tie, roll up his sleeves and bingo, they are casual. A woman is in a business dress and an event turns out to be casual she is over-dressed, but if she shows up at the business meeting she has an hour later ehh — so women have more things to consider.”
The practical implications of just being a woman, the supporter noted, does play a role in appearance. To the supporter, Bachmann should try to place her ideas for the country at the forefront of her campaign.
“Women don’t have pockets for example, a man can jam his wallet in his back pocket, if a woman has a purse [while campaigning] it looks a little weird, she hands it to an aide, she is criticized as abusing an aide” the supporter said. “But I think the big thing for Bachmann is that she needs to be focused on the policies that she wants to put forward for the country and let the rest of this roll off.”
The source added that support from family is key for a woman, or anybody, to be successful.
“Palin has a very strong family support from her husband Todd and that is crucial — to have an anchor in the storm,” said the supporter. “And from what I know of Michele Bachmann, she seems to have that with her husband and family and I think that will be a huge help to her.”
In terms of actual policy promotion, Sabato noted that it will be key for Bachmann to do a better job than Palin did in preparing herself for the political onslaught.
“The mistake that got Palin in the most trouble was not being fully prepared for each press availability, and not having key facts at her fingertips,” Sabato told TheDC. “Bachmann has already demonstrated some of that same problem…Shooting from the hip can please GOP base voters, who will say ‘we know what she meant,’ but in the end, even for a GOP nomination, a candidate has to bring some of the moderate-conservatives along.”