Why is Michele Bachmann endorsing Mitt Romney now?

An endorsement by Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann in Virginia, a battleground state, can help Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, the Romney camp can help Bachmann with her campaign debt.

Jae C. Hong/AP
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (right), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) of Minnesota (left), and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, arrive at a campaign stop in Portsmouth, Va., Wednesday.

Former GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is finally on board the Mitt Romney train. She endorsed the presumptive Republican nominee at a Thursday rally in Portsmouth, Va.

The former Massachusetts governor is a man "who will preserve the American dream of prosperity and liberty," said Congresswoman Bachmann (R) of Minnesota on stage.

Why now? She’s resisted the Romney camp’s entreaties for months, after all, saying that she was working behind the scenes to bring all factions of her party together. Fellow social conservative Rick Santorum hasn’t yet endorsed Mr. Romney. Neither has Newt Gingrich. It isn’t like Bachmann’s been standing out in the cold.

From Romney’s point of view there are hazards in appearing on stage with Bachmann, as well. She was pretty tough on him before she suspended her campaign last January. Already Democrats are gleefully promoting her most biting anti-Mitt rhetoric. The liberal blog Think Progress has listed what editors judge her 10 best Romney attacks.

No. 1? “[Romney] cannot beat Obama. It’s not going to happen,” she told ABC News last December.

Well, we think there’s a mutual perceived advantage here that makes electoral sense. Bachmann’s running to retain her congressional seat, after all. If she wins, and Romney wins, and she hadn’t endorsed him, she’d be in an awkward spot. Plus, she’s got about $650,000 in debt from her presidential bid, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Romney money folks can help retire that.

As for Romney, look at where the endorsement announcement is occurring. Bachmann is a Minnesota lawmaker, yet she’s appearing next to her party’s presumptive standard-bearer down in tidewater Virginia.

We say that’s because the Old Dominion is more of a swing state than Minnesota. Right now Romney is about 2 points behind President Obama in Virginia, according to the RealClearPolitics rolling average of state polls. He’s almost 10 points behind in Minnesota.

Bachmann has long been a favorite of Tea Party adherents. And Virginia’s got lots of those: about 21 percent of the state’s voters said they were Tea Party supporters, according to a Marist survey from earlier this year.

That’s why this endorsement event has been set up as it has, if you ask us. The Romney team may be narrowcasting this, hoping for a boost in a particular state, among a particular segment of that state’s voters. On Saturday, Bachmann will be the commencement speaker at Regent University in nearby Virginia Beach. Perhaps she’ll have a few good words to say about Romney at an educational institution that was founded by Pat Robertson and remains a font of conservative evangelical thought.

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