With her Midwestern voice and buoyant manner, Michele Bachmann can easily charm an audience, even over the ether. Indeed, when I catch clips of on FoxNews and even CNN, she acquits herself quite well, coming across as the PTA leader who speaks for the parents because she has listened and can talk to the teachers because she’s committed.
Reading about her tussle with Tim Pawlenty at the FoxNews debate last week reminded me of another campaign exchange between a charismatic newcomer and a more experienced politician. In that contest, charisma trumped experience as it did this weekend.
Sometimes in politics, campaign theatrics matter more than executive accomplishments. Despite his solid record as governor of the Gopher State, in terms of stage presence, Pawlenty couldn’t hold a candle to his fellow Minnesotan.
She’s not the first politician to rise to prominence on the power of her presence rather than her record in office, devoid of accomplishment as it is. Interesting that unlike other such political figures, she made in rise without the active support of the mainstream media. Perhaps, the negative portrait they have painted of her has helped her among rank-and-file Republicans.
While I highly doubt that she’ll win the Republican presidential nomination, it’s not unprecedented for a charismatic outsider who has served only a handful of terms in the U.S. House to secure his party’s presidential nomination. William Jennings Bryan had served only two terms before Democrats nominated him as their party’s standard bearer in 1896.
At least since Bryan, we’ve seen how personality often trumps accomplishment in electoral politics. Despite Mrs. Bachmann’s many flaws, she does have a compelling presence on the hustings.