With Huckabee Out, Bachmann More Likely To Run For POTUS, And That Helps Romney

With Huckabee out, the right side of the GOP primary base may end up divided. And that will help Mitt Romney.

Mike Huckabee’s decision to sit out the 2012 race makes it more likely that Michele Bachmann will jump into the race, according to those closest to her:

Senior insiders to Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann say the Republican founder of the House Tea Party caucus is now very likely to run for president.

In the wake of both Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump opting out of the 2012 race, calls to Bachmann’s offices “have been burning up our lines” according to a Bachmann confidant who marveled, “one guy called her our Margaret Thatcher!”

Bachmann has said before that she will likely make a decision by June. She unveiled a new website design Monday that highlights Team Bachmann rather than Congresswoman Bachmann.

In addition to encouragement by phone and email, supporters are also pledging money, according to the insider.

Frankly I’m not sure what Bachmann is thinking here, for the same reasons that Allahpundit puts forward:

What’s in it for Bachmann? Why would she want to torpedo Pawlenty, whose only chance at the nomination likely requires winning Iowa? Yeah, they’re Minnesota “rivals,” but there’s no bitterness between them that I know of the way there was between Huckabee and Romney. My best guess is that it’s not about Pawlenty (or Palin) at all but about using a win in Iowa to boost her standing on the Hill, where the caucus often seems to treat her as a distraction. Three years ago, Huckabee was just some guy who’d governed Arkansas after Clinton; three years later, after winning Iowa, he’s poised to play social conservative kingmaker. Bachmann’s not going to win the nomination but she doesn’t need to in order to become a national figure.

Additionally, I think it’s rather naive to assume that Bachmann would be the sole, or even the major, beneficiary from Huckabee’s exist. As I noted on Sunday, there are a host of candidates that appeal to his base of evangelical social conservatives (Cain, Santorum, and Pawlenty for example) and the idea that they are all going to unite behind one candidate strikes me as just wishful thinking.

Besides, I tend to agree with Ramesh Ponnuru that the biggest beneficiary here may be Mitt Romney:

Like Bob Dole in 1996 or John McCain in 2008, Romney is an establishment-oriented candidate with serious vulnerabilities on his right flank. To get the nomination, he needs (as they needed) to prevent the emergence of a single candidate to his right. So Dole made a tactical alliance with Pat Buchanan in Lousiana, helping to eject from the race the one candidate who could theoretically have denied him the nomination by consolidating voters to his right: Phil Gramm. McCain made a tactical alliance with Mike Huckabee against the candidate against whom both of them were competing and whom both of them hated: Romney.

Which candidate does Romney most need to worry about? In my view, it’s Tim Pawlenty. He can run to Romney’s right, but with establishment support, in a way that I don’t think Daniels or Huntsman can or want to.

The candidate who could play the Buchanan/Huckabee role this time is Michele Bachmann. Like her ’96 and ’08 counterparts, she cannot win the nomination but can prevent anyone to the establishment candidate’s right from getting it either. (I think she has greater potential strength in the primaries than Santorum, but if he took off he could play the same role.) So watch for Romney to start making a lot of positive comments about Bachmann.

I don’t believe Romney could win a Romney-Pawlenty contest. But he would almost certainly win a Romney-Bachmann race, and could well win a Romney-Pawlenty-Bachmann race. So to the extent he can boost her, it makes sense for him to do so. Having been on the losing end of this maneuver, Romney, I assume, knows how it’s done.

I tend to think that Ponnuru is underestimating Daniels and overestimating Pawlenty, but his overall point remains the same. The biggest threat to Romney at this point is a candidate that the right side of the party unites behind. With Huckabee out, that threat is significantly diminished.


FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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.


  1. Hey Norm says:

    Forget the establishment…that’s so last century. She has the backing of the silly people with bags of tea dangling from their hats. That’s where the Republican party is now. I can’t wait to see her and Obama in a debate!!!!!!

  2. AllenS says:

    Hey Norm, did you know that Bachmann provided foster care for 23 children? How does that match up with Obama’s community organizing? If there’s a light weight, my money is on Obama.

  3. Hey Norm says:

    I admire the fact that she has taken in so many foster children. It’s nice to see that the socialist farm subsidies she recieved go to good use. The fact that she home schools them, however, is an argument against home schooling. Seriously…

  4. Wayne says:

    If I remember right, the early GOP Primaries has gone to “winner doesn’t take all” early primaries. That can change the dynamics some.

  5. anjin-san says:

    It would seem the right has an inexhaustible number of clowns to send in…

  6. Moosebreath says:

    For someone whose main objection to Democrats is their economic policy, I simply cannot believe a statement like “The biggest threat to Romney at this point is a candidate that the right side of the party unites behind. With Huckabee out, that threat is significantly diminished.” could be uttered by you. Huckabee had no chance of unifying the right side of the party, as he is anathema to the Club for Growth types.

    I don’t necessarily disagree with your view of Romney silently supporting Bachmann to keep the right flank from being unified, though.

  7. Pete says:

    Hey anjin, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

  8. anjin-san says:

    Hey anjin, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

    Considering that you are wrong/ignorant so often, that little jibe does not even rise to the level of being hit by a marshmallow,

  9. Pete says:

    Do you mean a marshmallow like you? It’s a shame your life seems to be filled with hatred, envy and childish thinking. I do hope you can become a happy, content human being someday.

  10. anjin-san says:

    Gosh Pete, you are really hurting my feelings. Ouch. Anyone got a band-aid :}

  11. anjin-san says:

    Meanwhile back on clown alley, Michelle Bachmann is shopping for a book publisher with expectations of a large advance:


    So GOP Presidential politics are serving one of their primary functions, eg: money and publicity for Republicans who have zero chance of ever becoming President.

    Newt Gingrich has caved to a firestorm from the right and made a personal apology to Paul Ryan for criticizing his budget proposals:


    leading to speculation that Newt’s campaign is DOA.

    Santorum is trying to get the scorch marks off of his suit after McCain’s office responded to questions about Santorum’s torture comments with a single word- “who”?

    And Pete goes happily through his days humming Stephen Sondheim tunes, enjoying the melody, while at the same time not quite grasping the meaning…