Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is a firebreather. It’s a significant part of her charm. But as polls show her to be a serious candidate in the Iowa caucuses — and, therefore, the race for the nomination — Bachmann’s been up on TV rounding off some of her sharper edges.
No longer is President Obama “un-American,” as Bachmann said in 2008. Nor is eliminating the minimum wage the top priority it was back in 2005. As she steps into the national spotlight — with the help of big-time campaign strategist Ed Rollins — Bachmann is presenting a kinder, gentler face.
To do it, she’s had to walk back from some of her tougher talk. She’s still telling it like it is (that’s the charm thing going again) but she’s doing it with a softer side.
Let’s take the whole anti-American thing for example. Here’s what she said in 2008, during an MSNBC appearance with Chris Matthews:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: —so you believe that Barack Obama might have anti-American views?
REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN: Yeah, absolutely I— I— I’m very concerned that he may have anti-American views. That’s what the American people are concerned about.
She immediately claimed she wasn’t talking about Obama’s patriotism. But it took her running for president to finally soften the rhetoric.
“Oh, sure, there’s a lot of things I wish I would have said differently, of course,” Bachmann told CBS’ Face The Nation Sunday.
Next comes the minimum wage. As Greg Sargent pointed out, Bachmann’s 2005 position — that the minimum wage should be eliminated to create full employment — was one of the more extreme in the GOP.
Now that she’s a presidential candidate, that’s (sort of) out. Here’s more from the Face The Nation transcript:
BOB SCHIEFFER: But you’re not flatly saying you would abolish the minimum wage. Now you’re saying you— it’s something you would look at.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN: I’m— I’m not saying—
BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): You’re not as sure of that as you were back then?
REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN (overlapping): —I’m— I’m— I’m— I’m— I’m not saying that I would be doing that.
She was a little less direct with George Stephanopoulos on ABC Tuesday. But she still wouldn’t embrace her 2005 position. From the transcript:
Stephanopoulos: Let me try one more time, so you are saying that the minimum wage is one of those regulations you’d take a look at, you’d try to eliminate it?
Bachmann: Well what I’m saying is that I think we need to look at all regulations, whatever—whatever ones are inhibiting job growth that’s what we need to —
Stephanopoulos: And the minimum wage is one of them?
Bachmann: All regulations George. I think every department. We have just too much expansion of government and so what we need to do is tamp that down so that the American people can keep more of what they make.
Same Bachmann, less divisive kill the minimum wage rhetoric. Such is the stuff of presidential politics for some (unless you’re a Republican governor who once tried to clean up greenhouse gas emissions — then you shoot to the extreme.)
Speaking of extremes, there’s one walkback that’s especially Tea Party-tastic. Back in April, when Bachmann’s presidential campaign was still a “maybe,” Stephanopoulos showed her a copy of what was then the only birth certificate anyone had for Obama. Right then Bachmann backed off her calls for Obama to release the longform.
“I guess it’s over,” she said. But, as the campaign continues, one imagines that the walkbacks are not.