Did Michele Bachmann fight her way back into the GOP race?

Michele Bachmann came out swinging in Thursday night's Republican debate. She landed repeated blows on Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

(AP Photo/Eric Gay, Pool)
Rep. Michele Bachmann, (R) of Minnesota at the Republican presidential debate in Sioux City, Iowa, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011.

Going into Thursday night’s Fox News Republican debate, the expectation was that Mitt Romney would finally go after Newt Gingrich, the new frontrunner in the polls. But the shots fired in last night’s debate didn’t come from Mitt … but from Michele Bachmann

Bachmann determinedly inserted herself into the debate by relentlessly attacking the former House Speaker (and smartly buying herself extra airtime by demanding she be allowed to respond to perceived counterattacks). She also got into it with Ron Paul on the issue of Iran. And in both cases, she landed some real blows. 

Bachmann went after Gingrich hard over his work for mortgage giant Freddie Mac, saying he took $1.6 million to influence senior Republicans “to keep the scam going.” When he responded by saying “that’s just not true,” she went right back at him, pointing out that Politifact has backed her charges (though actually, they had backed a different line of attack - her accusation in the last debate that Gingrich had once supported an individual mandate - but nevermind…), and repeating that that kind of “influence peddling” is simply lobbying by another name.

Bachmann also attacked Gingrich on abortion, saying he’d defended Republicans who supported partial-birth abortion and he’d declined an opportunity to defund Planned Parenthood. And when Gingrich challenged her again, saying: “sometimes Congresswoman Bachmann doesn’t get her facts accurate,” she framed his comment as sexist. ”I think it’s outrageous to say over and over I dont have my facts right when as a matter of fact I do,” she said, adding: “I’m a serious candidate.” Of course, Bachmann has notoriously had trouble with facts throughout this campaign. Still, it was a strong moment for her.

The strategy may have been born of desperation. With her campaign still polling in single digits and seemingly running on fumes, Bachmann needs any jolt she can get. And while usually, going on the attack hurts the attacker as much as the one being attacked, in this case, we’re not so sure. For one thing, Bachmann doesn’t have much to lose at this point. She also tried to couch her attacks as instances of standing on principle - using words like “shocked” repeatedly when talking about Gingrich. 

Recent polls have shown the race in Iowa is pretty much wide open. We’ll see if Bachmann managed to shake things up even more.

Like your politics unscrambled? Check out

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.