"She doesn't seem crazy at all," observes the piously liberal New Republic magazine, with what passes for praise for a conservative woman.
The Minnesota congresswoman entered the mainstream by swimming smoothly into the lane vacated by Mike Huckabee.
"I'm a serious member of Congress," she once declared to a photographer arranging the setting at a photo shoot. She wanted to make sure the focus was sharp.
She's known for doing her homework, building an argument based on personal research with facts, a quick intelligence and passionate conviction. She makes mistakes. She got the Founding Fathers and the arguments over slavery mixed up, a mistake like Barack Obama's famous reference to "the 57 states." Her mistakes aren't as major as the liberal media blow them up to be, but she sometimes talks faster than she thinks. It's a failing seen before among politicians, pundits and even philosophers.
Her critics say that as smart as she is, she has suffered from spending too much time inside her "biblical worldview." In my informal interviews of conservatives, I've found that they want her in the fray, rallying the troops on the social issues, but that's about as far as they want it to go. They find her savvy and a great campaigner, but they prefer her working for others rather than herself. (Just like Sarah Palin.)
Some conservatives recall her lack of discrimination before the 2008 election, when she described Obama as "anti-American," and suggesting that reporters should look into the views of members of Congress to find out who is "pro-America or anti-America." Hers was an error of judgment, and it hurt. She managed to get re-elected, but the margin was much closer than it should have been in a Michele-friendly district, and she ran 7 points behind John McCain.
Michele the presidential campaigner seems unafraid of increased scrutiny, mean-spirited as much of it will be, now that she's accomplished her wish to be taken seriously.
Her opposition to gay marriage, though well in line with national sentiment, provoked her opponents to stoop particularly low to conquer. They smeared her husband with innuendo in a nasty whispering campaign that gives new meaning to "sexual politics." The innuendo reflects the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered mockery of her husband, questioning his sexual orientation, using photographs and videos with more than hints that he suffers from repressed homosexuality. One mincing blogger said he would make "a fine first lady if nothing else."