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Bachmann and Pawlenty

Carey, the former Bachmann chief of staff who now supports Pawlenty, worries that Bachmann will again prove to be a burr in Pawlenty’s saddle by inadvertently throwing the nomination to Mitt Romney. He compared Bachmann to former Sen. Fred Thompson, who took enough votes away from Mike Huckabee in 2008 to allow John McCain to carry the key state of South Carolina.

“My concern with Michele is that she fragments the conservative vote and then somebody like Romney, who is the moderate in this year’s primaries, is able to thread the needle,” Carey said. “Her emotionally charged campaign is going to steal enough votes early in the process that it opens a pathway for someone like Romney.” ~Politico

The Bachmann-Thompson comparison doesn’t work very well here. Thompson grudgingly got into the race after being practically begged to jump in by conservative pundits and activists, and Bachmann is getting into the race when party and movement elites would prefer her to stay out. Pawlenty is clearly seeking to be the broadly acceptable conservative alternative to Romney, and in this respect he is very much like Romney in 2007-08. Romney’s plans to defeat McCain were upended by Huckabee coming out of nowhere, winning Iowa, and becoming the main alternative to McCain in South Carolina, which is more or less what Pawlenty’s supporters now fear Bachmann could do to him in his contest with Romney. She can outflank him on the right on fiscal and social issues, and she has stronger connections with pro-life and Tea Party activists than he does. As the article explains, she is an activist who happens to be in elected office. Even if she doesn’t win Iowa, she has the potential to do better than Pawlenty. Were that to happen, it’s not clear what reason Pawlenty would have for continuing his campaign.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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