Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain are hot on the heels of GOP front runner Mitt Romney. But even as they vie with each other and with the former Massachusetts Governor for the lead, they are both really locked into virtual but invisible primaries of their own which will do a lot to determine if either of them emerges as the eventual nominee.
Every time Michele Bachmann speaks in public or on television, her viewers are always asking themselves one question: How does she compare with Sarah Palin? The Republican base was so energized and enthused by Sarah’s emergence onto the national stage in the summer of 2008 — and so shell-shocked by the way she was pelted by the mainstream media — that it can only see a new female candidate through the prism of that experience.
Like it or not, Michele Bachmann is in a virtual primary with Sarah Palin. She is always to be measured against the Alaska Governor – for good or ill – and she will thrive or fail depending on how she does in this comparison, even if Palin does not run for president. The former Governor of Alaska will always be the invisible metric against which Bachmann will be measured.
On the positive side, Michele’s viewers ask themselves how she measures up with the Alaska Governor. Is she as attractive? Are her comments as zingy? Does she have the same instinct for the jugular? Is her life experience as emblematic of her principles? Is she as refreshing a change from the uniformity and conformity of the liberal male professional political establishment?
But, at the same time, Bachmann is the un-Palin. Sarah had no experience in Washington; Michele is well steeped in its ways. For all of her energy, ambition, and knowledge, Palin lacked a stellar formal education. But Bachmann holds a Masters degree in tax law from The College of William and Mary, one of the oldest universities in the United States. The Alaska Governor was new to the national stage and needed to get up to speed on issues. Bachmann has lived her life on that stage and knows her stuff backwards and forwards. Palin was challenged on foreign policy issues. Michele serves on the House Intelligence Committee.
But we still worry that Bachmann will be subject to the same unfair, sexist calumny as undermined Palin. We are concerned that she might not be able to weather the trial by fire she is about to endure. When George Stephanopoulos asks Bachmann about her comment that the founding fathers fought to eradicate slavery, we hold our breath hoping that this is not about to be a Katie Couric/Sarah Palin moment. (It wasn’t. Michele handled it beautifully). But we still worry about the next interview. Like Palin, Bachmann will be asked questions no male politician has ever had to answer. And we pray she passes the test.
Even as the invisible Bachmann/Palin primary unfolds, another contest will increasingly grip the national stage: the comparison between Barack Obama and Herman Cain. When they only had their race in common, the comparison was not especially salient. But since Obama has tacked to the left and based his campaign on class warfare, Cain has an important and impressive opportunity to turn the president’s flank and speak out against pitting one group of Americans against the other.
Coming from a poverty more dire than Obama’s and an American experience that is perhaps more authentic than a president whose youth was divided between Hawaii and Indonesia, Cain can speak for those who are at the bottom with passion and skill. He can make the fundamental point that you do not help the poor by vilifying the rich. You do not advance the one by attacking the other. You don’t create jobs by demonizing and taxing those who create them.
Cain, as a businessman who worked his way up from poverty, can speak to the futility of class warfare and call upon the chief executive to become the president of all Americans, rich and poor. He can slam the president’s attempts to paint the rich as greedy and the Republican Party as their tool. When Obama declares, as he did in the Twitter debate, that the GOP is using the debt ceiling as a gun to hold to America’s heads so its “friends can ride on corporate jets,” Cain must call him to task and decry this blatant attempt at class warfare. He should emphasize that we are all in this together than that a tax on anyone hurts everyone. You cannot attack America’s consumers and entrepreneurs without killing off any recovery we might be having. Herman Cain can make this point in a way nobody else can.
So we will judge Bachmann and Cain in the shadows of Palin and Obama. We will hold them to a standard we do not use for anyone else. They are both superb candidates and we pray for their success. Either one would be the change we need!
And remember, I’ll be moderating the first-ever Twitter Presidential debate on July 20th at 3:00 PM Eastern. This is YOUR opportunity to make YOUR voice heard. You can submit questions, and I’ll be posing them to the candidates – and holding their feet to the fire for real answers.
I’ve put together a special free guide, The Republican Debates: The Inside Story that we’ll email you before the debate. This is the real inside intelligence on what to look for and how to understand what’s happening behind the scenes. Be sure to click here to get your free guide and be prepared.
Participating is free, and involvement is priceless. So, click here now to register, and make your voice part of the election conversation. I look forward to seeing your questions – and bringing you the answers!