Michele Bachmann may still have had a serious stab at the Republican presidential nomination had she taken a page out of Christina Aguilera’s playbook.
Britney Spears exploded onto the world stage in the late ‘90s, she was young and blonde, singing catchy pop and dance music. Like all successful products, she had many replicas. Most famously Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson and Mandy Moore, all mimicking the Spears’ look and sound with varying degrees of success. All three still maintain some relative fame. But Aguilera alone is the only one still famous as a singer.
Quickly after breaking out into the scene Aguilera destroyed her bubble gum image, she took off her clothes on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine, dyed her hair, and showed off her vocal abilities in ballads. Crushing the image of Britney 2.0 that saved her musical career and it is this sort of re-imaging that might have saved Michele Bachmann’s presidential ambitions.
In the last presidential campaign Governor Sarah Palin set the political world on fire, she was Reagan in heels and her instant popularity was so great it too had many imitators -- most famously Michele Bachmann, Sharon Angle and Christine O’Donnell. All were “Mama Grizzlies,” Tea Party backed, and very religious. While the later two still have some fans, both have written a memoir and have their own PACs. Only Bachmann is an office holder and still has the ability to draw Palin like crowds. Her presidential run, however, was inevitably doomed due her inability to separate herself from Palin brand.
At the beginning of her presidential campaign, Bachmann positioned herself as anti-establishment, an Evangelical, who had been fighting President Obama’s agenda for the last three years. However, she was never taken very seriously by the media. In a now famous interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday she had to explain that she was a “very serious person” after the host asked her if she was a “flake."
Bachmann was scrutinized about everything from her chronic suffering of migraine headaches to her endless stream of gaffes. Her most memorable gaffes included placing the Battles of Lexington and Concord in New Hampshire rather than in neighboring Massachusetts, she said that the founding fathers ended slavery, she confused screen legend John Wayne’s birthplace with that of serial killer John Wayne Gacey, and, when visiting Memphis, TN she stated that she was happy to visit their state on the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s birthday when she visited on the same date he died.
While these were not serious policy issues that would set the country in a different course, her verbal missteps became highlights cable news and many of the Republican primary voters ate it up. Her poll numbers dropped dramatically from running second against Mitt Romney to polling only in single digits.
From the beginning her connection to Sarah Palin set her up for failure. The assumption of many voters and media outlets was as follows: Sarah Palin makes gaffes and portrays herself as uninformed, Michele Bachmann looks and sounds like Sarah Palin, therefore Michele Bachmann must also be uninformed. The more gaffes she made, the more that narrative was set in voters’ minds.
Michele Bachmann needed to rebrand herself away from the image Sarah Palin had set. She could have kept the strong faith part of her campaign without over-emphasizing it, which turned off many outside the Evangelical right. Having God speak to you and being submissive to your husband may be what you believe, but it’s not a way to win the moderate voters in the suburbs of Philadelphia and Madison. Likewise, she needed to keep her opposition to the Obama agenda while not overdoing the rhetoric. Fiery language may sit well with many on your base but there’s very little chance of winning a primary when your message is written for 30% to 40% of the electorate.
Bachmann should have taken the time to become a policy wonk on several key issues outside the “Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act” which she authored. She could have very easily been a thought provoking politician, a Ron Paul alternative without the exotic ideas of heroin legalization and privatizing marriage from which many Middle Americans recoil sharply.
Bachmann, who is a very talented and lively speaker could have been the perfect fusion of the Sarah Palin populism, the Christian right, and Ron Paul statesmanship that could have secured her the GOP nomination.
Michele Bachmann’s bid for the presidency of the United States is all but finished. Her campaign is just a shallow fragment of what it was just two short months ago, she’s polling in single digits in every early primary state save Iowa, the state in which she was born. For Bachmann, a path to the White House may have been more attainable had she taken the career advice of the Christina Aguilera instead of following blindly in the footsteps of Sarah Palin.