GOP Leadership Deals With Michele Bachmann By Ignoring Her

Michele Bachmann’s stardom inside the Tea Party movement isn’t matched inside the beltway:

House Republican leaders have a simple strategy for dealing with Rep. Michele Bachmann: Ignore her.

“We treat her like all Members,” a GOP leadership aide said.

Paying the tea party firebrand any special attention would only heighten her profile, empower her and potentially create schisms within the new House majority, Republican aides said.

Republican leaders might have reason to try to manage the conservative Minnesota Republican more directly, however. Bachmann hasn’t been quiet in the weeks since the 112th Congress began: She officially launched the conservative Tea Party Caucus and offered her own response to the State of the Union.

“I think there are a lot of people in the leadership that wish she would step back so the Republican Party can put up a face that appeals to moderate and independent voters, and she does none of that,” one Republican operative said. “She has a segment of the Republican Party or the tea party that’s staunchly anti-government, anti-spending, anti-tax. There is no middle appeal with her, and I think there’s a great deal of concern that the Republican Party is going to be branded as the party of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann.”

Even some of her fellow Tea Party sympathizers wish she would take a less active role:

Bachmann seems comfortable in her role, and she made no apologies for her State of the Union response, which was widely panned outside the halls of Congress. But even under the Dome, Bachmann’s appearance won some jeers.

Freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), a member of the Tea Party Caucus, said the rebuttal was “a distraction” from the official response given by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

“We’re all Republicans. I think it was a distraction that she did it, and it was just fodder for the media … to try to create this separation within the party,” Walsh said during an interview with Chicago radio station WLS last month.

“I mean there is no more tea party freshman on the planet than myself, but I’ll be the first to say, respectfully, Michele had no business making that speech last night,” Walsh said during the interview.

Several Republicans said that Walsh represented the sentiment of many new Members, who want to push a conservative agenda but don’t want to upset leadership. Those aides also suggested that new Members are more inclined to seek Boehner’s advice than Bachmann’s.

On some level you can’t blame Bachmann for being a firebrand. She’d never be more than a gadfly as a Presidential candidate, and despite the fact that she’s been talked about as a challenger to Amy Klobacher in 2012 it seems unlikely she’d be able to win statewide in Minnesota. Representing the 6th District of Minnesota is about as far up the political ladder as she’s likely to get, and the longer she’s there the more power and influence she’d be able to accumulate on the basis of seniority. She may never make it into the GOP leadership, but she’d build up her own power base.

As for the GOP itself, perhaps treating her like she’s just another Member of Congress makes sense, but considering the amount of bad press she generates for the party one would think that a more active strategy will be needed in the future.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.