John Guardiano rises to the defense of Michele Bachmann:
The only thing that seems “obvious” to me is that Bachmann is a candidate of substance who deserves to be taken seriously. She certainly doesn’t deserve to be airily and patronizingly dismissed as some sort of second-rate, subpar presidential candidate.
There are a few things to say about this. Bachmann can be a “candidate of substance” and still be obviously unqualified to be President. She could be all the things Guardiano says she is, and it wouldn’t prove that she was prepared for that office. Many Republicans judged Obama to be similarly lacking in qualifications for the office when he ran with just about as much experience in elected office as Bachmann has right now. Bachmann is in the same position in the 2012 Republican field that Obama occupied in the 2008 Democratic race in some ways, but she has the disadvantage of running an insurgent campaign from the right in a party that normally scorns and rejects ideological insurgents in its presidential nominating contest. She could withstand the challenge from Perry, but at that point the party’s leadership and donors would rally to Romney to prevent a repeat of 1964.
Guardiano says that it is obvious that “she can win,” and I take him to mean that he thinks she can win the general election. That seems impossible. It is still hard to see how she could win the nomination once the contest moves to larger primary electorates. That isn’t to say it absolutely couldn’t happen. When Obama announced his candidacy in early 2007, it seemed absurd that a newly-minted Senator with a decade of experience in the state legislature could win his party’s nomination, but it happened. As I said, insurgent Republican campaigns tend to fail, but it is possible that anti-establishment sentiment could be strong enough to keep Bachmann going long enough to secure the delegates she needs. The argument against Paul Ryan as the nominee is the same as the one against nominating Bachmann. Even if the party were inclined to accept a young House member, the electorate would not, because a large majority would find such a nominee to be ill-prepared for the position.
What is interesting is how important the strength and intensity of Bachmann’s beliefs are to Guardiano’s judgment. She is “adamantly opposed” to federal health care legislation, there is virtually no one “more committed” to cutting federal spending, and she opposed raising the debt ceiling. There is no question that she takes uncompromising stances on all sorts of issues. It doesn’t follow from any of this that she would be a competent or effective executive. What we have seen of her on the national stage gives us no reason to believe that she would be. Indeed, the viability of her candidacy depends on a very large number of Republican voters understanding that she is unqualified and supporting her anyway.