Is A Three-Term Congresswoman Who’s Never Sponsored A Law Ready For The White House?

The odds of history are against Michele Bachmann.

Politico’s John Brenahan and Jake Sherman take a look at Michele Bachmann’s legislative record in the four years she’s been representing the 6th District of Minnesota and find it to be pretty thin:

Rep. Michele Bachmann is surging in the GOP presidential polls and barnstorming Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, but as she sprints toward the front of the Republican pack, there’s a major hole in her political résumé: legislation.

Now in her third House term, Bachmann has never had a bill or resolution she’s sponsored signed into law, and she’s never wielded a committee gavel, either at the full or subcommittee level. Bachmann’s amendments and bills have rarely been considered by any committee, even with the House under GOP control. In a chamber that rewards substantive policy work and insider maneuvering, Bachmann has shunned the inside game, choosing to be more of a bomb thrower than a legislator.

But will the lack of substantive accomplishments in Congress hurt Bachmann? Not necessarily, the Minnesota Republican’s supporters argue.

Bachmann advocates say her constant attacks on President Barack Obama, her fights to block legislation and her ability to articulate on the House floor — and on television — what grass-roots conservatives believe in is far more important to GOP primary voters than how many bills she got passed.

“I think she’s had a profound effect on debate,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas). “It doesn’t mean you always win. In fact, as we know, [Winston] Churchill lost and lost and was a voice of reason in Great Britain for a long time before people finally realized he was right.”

I’m not sure how reliable an endorsement from Louis “Terror Babies” Gohmert actually is, but even leaving that aside, the Winston Churchill analogy doesn’t quite fit either. In addition to being a Member of Parliament, Churchill also served as First Lord of the Admiralty during World War One, and the beginning months of World War Two. Comparing him to someone who’s been in Congress for 41 months is, quite simply, absurd.

Some will point out, no doubt, that President Obama had a rather thin legislative record in the Senate before running for the White House, and that’s true. There’s a difference between running for President from the Senate, and running for President from the House of Representatives. For one thing, in 45 Presidential elections, we’ve elected three Senators directly from the Senate to the White House (Harding, Kennedy, and Obama). At the same time, we’ve elected exactly one sitting member of the House of Representatives to the Presidency, James Garfield, who also happened to have had a distinguished Civil War record with the Union Army. (Other than Garfield, only Madison and Lincoln had served only in the House before becoming Presidency, but not immediately before) Since that time, the odds have been decidedly against members of the Lower House who may have their eyes on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:

A Smart Politics review of Democratic and Republican primary elections and convention balloting since 1912 finds that more than 30 presidential nomination campaigns have been launched by sitting members of the U.S. House.

None of these campaigns resulted in a ticket to the White House or even their party’s nomination

In other words, not only was Garfield the only sitting Congressman to be elected President in American history, he was also the last one to receive his party’s nomination for President, and that was way back in 1880.

Bachmann is also bucking the odds of history in that she has less legislative experience than almost any other member of the House who has run for President:

Of the 33 candidacies for the presidency launched over the last 100 years, only two had shorter stints in the House at the time of their campaign than Bachmann.

Both of these ran in 1972.

Democrat Walter Fauntroy was in the first term as Delegate from the District of Columbia when he ran a “symbolic” campaign – only appearing on the D.C. primary ballot to focus attention on issues affecting blacks and D.C. home rule.

Two-term Democratic New York U.S. Representative Shirley Chisholm set sail on a more ambitious course for her Democratic nomination bid in 1972 – carrying three states and winning several hundred thousands of primary votes.

Also running in the 1972 race was a congressman who equalled Bachmann in House experience at three terms: Ohio Republican Pete McCloskey failed in his upset bid to defeat President Richard Nixon for the GOP nomination.

Of course, Fauntry, Chisolm, and McCloskey were all long shot candidates in their respective parties. Bachmann appears, at least at the beginning, to be in a much better position according to the polls. Nonetheless, history seems to suggest that the odds are against her.

 

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Congress, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds 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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. sam says:

    Yeah, yeah, so what? Look, Bachmann (and Palin) only gets stronger in the eyes of her supporters whenever her competence is challenged by pointy-headed, effete, educated guys like you.

    It’s one of the bizarre aspects of our modern politics that you’re essentially preaching to two entirely different choirs: one, composed of folks like you and me who think she would be a freaking disaster and the other, composed of folks who think she is “one of them”.

    The first group reads what you wrote and says, “Jesus, more evidence that she’s a incompetent boob.”

    The second group reads what you wrote and says, “Jesus, she’s just like me.”

    Both groups are right, of course.

  2. narciso says:

    Well you do have a point, then again, you could be known for whisleblower statute, that has been repeated violated under your administration, with respect to the IG’s, o we do need a higher standard than that.

  3. Hey Norm says:

    She is NOT qualified…but it’s not because of her legislative record.

  4. James Joyner says:

    @sam: Yes, that’s the problem. Reagan and Falwell brought the evangelicals into the party and they gradually took over the grass roots, starting with local school boards. Thus far, though, they’ve been bit players in presidential primaries and, with rare exceptions, statewide races (governor and US Senate). I’m still banking that the mainstream Republicans hold them off at the elite level but it’s increasingly possible that these people are the mainstream Republicans now.

  5. Brian Knapp says:

    I’m still banking that the mainstream Republicans hold them off at the elite level but it’s increasingly possible that these people are the mainstream Republicans now.

    I’m sure that it pains you to write as much as it does for me to read it.

  6. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    Obviously Bachmann is not qualified to be president. Then again, neither was Rambobama’s teleprompter.

    The difference is that in spite of the loons on the far right national GOP primaries over the long haul still act as legitimate political filters, whereas Democrat voters are so numbingly stupid (or young or senile or race obsessed or mentally ill) their primary processes are true races to the absolute bottom denominators.

    Bachmann won’t be the GOP nominee. The same way Gary Bauer never actually had a chance to be the nominee. The same way Pat Buchanan never actually had a chance to be the nominee. The same way Pat Robertson never actually had a chance to be the nominee. So on, so forth.

  7. PJ says:

    The big question is if she’s going to be willing to go after Romney on RomneyCare (which, as a bonus, funds abortions), or if she’s going to chicken out like Pawlenty.

    There has been some talk about there not being any Democratic primaries/caucuses next year would make independents who would have voted in the Democratic primaries/caucuses able to vote in the Republican ones instead and picking the more moderate candidate. But it also mean that Democratic primary voters can do the same too, they could even re-register as Republicans and vote in the closed primaries.
    I would be surprised if we don’t see any movements to do so.
    I think this is the biggest threat against how candidates are currently elected.

    Tsar Nicholas II, so the Democrats can get their “absolute bottom denominators” elected as President, but not the Republicans? They have to move to the middle?

  8. Ben Wolf says:

    whereas Democrat voters are so numbingly stupid (or young or senile or race obsessed or mentally ill)

    Nicky doesn’t want the young, the old, the race obssessed (I.e. people who suffer from racism, meaning brown people) or the mentally ill (gays) anywhere near his party.

    His comment has absolutely nothing to do with the post, but it is revealing that he takes every opportunity to declare his innate superiority to two-thirds of the country.

  9. Jay Tea says:

    Hell, we elected a 2/3 term Senator with zero accomplishments besides getting elected to jobs he used purely as stepping-stones to the next job, so why not Bachmann?

    At least she’s done stuff in her life besides angle for promotions…

    J.

  10. At least she’s done stuff in her life besides angle for promotions…

    Bachmann’s only job other than politician was as an attorney for the IRS. She has even less private sector experience than Obama, who has at least had jobs at private non-profit organizations.

  11. mantis says:

    She has even less private sector experience than Obama, who has at least had jobs at private non-profit organizations.

    And for profit as well. He was employed by the law firm Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland for a total of 11 years.

  12. And for profit as well. He was employed by the law firm Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland for a total of 11 years.

    I consider a private lawyer something of a grey area in terms of “private sector” being that it’s largely tied to state coercion rather than a voluntary market place.

  13. Rick DeMent says:

    I consider a private lawyer something of a grey area in terms of “private sector” being that it’s largely tied to state coercion rather than a voluntary market place.

    Interesting, I consider corporations a wholly socialist entities since they are created by the state and owe their existences to the same state and thus under the control of the state. Funny how stupid you can make an argument when you believe in the complete and utter fiction of a “free marketplace”

  14. mattb says:

    @JayTea:

    Hell, we elected a 2/3 term Senator with zero accomplishments besides getting elected to jobs he used purely as stepping-stones to the next job, so why not Bachmann?

    Side-stepping the “zero accomplishments” (and the fact that he did win statewide office versus a district), the one differentiation is that she would be running against President Obama versus Senator Obama — someone with 3+ years of accomplishments* to his name. This is different than a contest between two senators (or two representatives).

    * – To be fair, depending on your view of the world, those “accomplishments” might be proof of very different things (and may hurt Obama far more than they help him with many voters).

  15. narciso says:

    Besides the Citicorp case, that opened up the subprime financing spigot, for good and ill,
    what else did he do while he was at that law firm,

  16. mantis says:

    I consider a private lawyer something of a grey area in terms of “private sector” being that it’s largely tied to state coercion rather than a voluntary market place.

    Fair enough. I consider a firm that works anything but pro bono to be working towards a profit.

  17. My point was that lawyer is one of several jobs where you can force people to consume your services. Even if that’s set up as a for-profit entity, it’s still something semi-governmental about it. I’d also put prison guards, defense contractors, and similar jobs in similar category.

  18. Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

    My point was that lawyer is one of several jobs where you can force people to consume your services.

    I can assure you that if that were true, my lifestyle would be significantly more lavish than it is 😀

  19. Jay Tea says:

    Side-stepping the “zero accomplishments” (and the fact that he did win statewide office versus a district), the one differentiation is that she would be running against President Obama versus Senator Obama — someone with 3+ years of accomplishments* to his name.

    First up, mattb, thanks for the little asterisk. You saved me bringing up that point. Caveat accepted.

    Now that that’s out of the way, let me say that I do NOT consider “winning an election” an accomplishment of any real significance. To me, holding office is merely a means to an end — and securing that office is only a way to enable real accomplishments. It’s prep work, not actual work.

    In other words, what did Senator Obama (state or US) actually do with his office and authority? What great changes did he make? What legislation did he craft and fight for? What investigations did he hold?

    John Kerry, as much as I despise the elitist gigolo, had one truly praiseworthy accomplishment in the Senate. He pushed — and pushed hard — for the investigations that brought down BCCI. I made a point several times in 2008 in noting that, and lauding him for it.

    Obama, though? He won elections, then started either running for re-election or running for the next rung up the ladder. He never actually did much in the job he currently held.

    And now that he’s reached the peak, he’s still running for the next higher office. He doesn’t seem to realize there is no higher office.

    Anyone else get the feeling that once he’s out of office, he’s going to be more active and visible than Carter and Clinton combined?

    J.

  20. An Interested Party says:

    And now that he’s reached the peak, he’s still running for the next higher office.

    How’s that?

    Anyone else get the feeling that once he’s out of office, he’s going to be more active and visible than Carter and Clinton combined?

    Well of course you have that feeling, as you already think of him as a failure…

  21. Jay Tea says:

    How’s that?

    Just because something’s impossible, that doesn’t mean people won’t try it anyway. Obama’s entire political career has been based on getting elected to an office, then immediately running for the next one up. He never stops campaigning — and I don’t think he knows how. Hell, he’s in Iowa right now, essentially running against the Republican candidates for that caucus.

    As far as your second so-called point, it is an absolute non sequitur. When Obama leaves office, in 2013 or 2017, he’ll still be relatively young — if he gets a second term, he’ll be 55. Bill Clinton was exactly 15 days older when he left office, and he laid low so Hillary could establish herself politically. My point (which escaped you) is that, unlike Republican presidents, Obama will still seek out the limelight and try to involve himself in world affairs after he leaves office, much like Carter and Clinton (and unlike either of the Bushes, Reagan, or Ford).

    Who knows? Maybe he’ll make a serious stab for Secretary General of the UN. I dunno if the rule against it going to someone from one of the superpowers is formal or not, but if necessary he could probably produce a Kenyan birth certificate…

    Remember, this is the guy who was awarded and accepted a Nobel Peace Prize for, essentially, “not being George W. Bush.” And then went and not only continued Bush’s two was, but started a third one. He’s not exactly the most self-aware guy on the planet.

    J.

  22. SJ Reidhead says:

    My current fantasy is Newt taking her out in a debate on the topic of American history. Not to worry though, she will sparkle and her fans will rewrite history to suit her ignorance.

    SJR
    The Pink Flamingo

  23. Moderate Mom says:

    Lack of legislative accomplishment certainly didn’t keep Obama from winning the White House. Hell, looking at the two most recent occupants of the White House, ability to govern doesn’t seem to matter either.