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Posted Jan 29, 2011, 8:22 am
Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are running for President. Neither is fact finding, considering options, or on a “listening tour.” In Sarah’s case, she’s not really waiting to find out if democracy “needs” her to step in. Both women are running for the nation’s highest office. Further, both believe they are qualified for the job. Take a moment to wrap your head around that.
Of course, neither will be President. Bachmann and Palin both share the same narrow constituency, roughly twenty percent of Americans who believe their lack of success is caused by other Americans. Both Bachmann and Palin nourish these folks with a ready string of excuses for un-remarkableness. For that, their supporters are a very loyal bunch.
This voter bloc is large enough to make a powerful case that one or the other should be the Republican vice-presidential candidate. Historically, few potential running mates bring this many voters along. Either Bachmann or Palin would surely settle for VP when it becomes clear that they can’t win the top spot. Both would view it as their eventual path to the presidency.
So Palin needs to knock off Bachmann. Or Bachmann needs to knock off Palin. Between them, they have only one set of votes to deliver. And they both know it.
When Sarah Palin made one of her biggest gaffes to date, her silly, self-indulgent statement on the morning of the Tucson shooting victim’s memorial, she wasn’t merely answering critics. She was attempting to create an equivalent stature between herself and the President. It was a disastrous stumble and maybe a fatal one. She didn’t manage to elevate her standing – just the opposite. But she did manage to look petty and small and supremely narcissistic.
That may have been that exact moment when Michele Bachmann decided to deliver her equally silly response to the State of the Union. Though Bachmann didn’t stumble as badly as Palin, her performance could hardly be called a success. After getting a gift from CNN – they covered her speech live – she forgot to look at the network’s camera. It only served to reinforce her image as a bug-eyed, crazy woman. She also ticked off people she’ll need later, though honestly Bachmann’s always been ignorant about coalition building.
Michele Bachmann’s intention was the same as Sarah Palin’s. She sought to anoint herself with gravitas – to elevate herself (in the public’s mind) to an equal stature with the President. And don’t kid yourself; she was also exploiting a period of weakness for Palin. Consider it an inside elbow to her competition.
Both Sarah and Michele share a penchant for this kind of self-serving ruthlessness. They are also both willing to assassinate fellow party members if it helps them get ahead. Palin has made a career out of demonizing Alaska Republicans, including Lisa Murkowski’s dad. It’s what got her elected governor. And it is an example of what she’ll be willing to do to Bachmann.
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Bachmann is thumbing her nose at House leadership whom (she thinks) ought to have shown her more respect. Beyond political opportunism, her State of the Union response was a direct rebuke of Paul Ryan, who she seems to behold with jealousy. He’s the golden boy, anointed by the same Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor that snubbed her when she demanded a seat at their table.
These recent events were the opening salvos in the battle between them. They share the same dogma, rhetoric and supporters. Few voters who like Bachmann don’t like Palin and vice versa. One candidate has to beat the other – either in rounds (the state primaries) or with a late knockout at the party debates. But if they are both left standing at the end, each is only bringing half a loaf. In that case, they are interchangeable.
Soon enough they will aim their crosshairs at each other. When it happens, expect to see the greatest deluge of hyperbole and rhetorical excess since the McCarthy hearings. It ain’t gonna be pretty – but it sure is going to be fun!
I’ve already imagined a Twitter hashtag for the coming Palin-Bachmann smack down. It’s #Teapocalypse.
First published on Technorati as The Coming Bachmann-Palin Smack Down.
Jimmy Zuma splits his time between Washington, D.C. and Tucson. He writes the online opinion journal, Smart v. Stupid. He spent 5 years in Tucson in the early ‘80s, when life was a little slower, swamp coolers were a little more plentiful, Tucson’s legendary music scene was in full bloom, and the prevailing work ethic was “don’t - unless you have to.”