Is Michele Bachmann the new Sarah Palin?

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann sounds just like Sarah Palin did months ago, issuing non-denials to queries about a potential 2012 presidential run. Is she keeping her options open?

Ron Sachs/Newscom
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) of Minnesota, (c.) makes remarks after the first Tea Party Caucus meeting at the US Capitol in Washington on July 21, 2010.

Is Michele Bachmann the new Sarah Palin?

After all, Ms. Bachmann is talkative, telegenic, and a big tea party backer. Plus, she’s used to cold and snow. She’s a GOP member of Congress from Minnesota, after all.

And – here’s the crucial part – she’s avoiding the question of whether she will run for president in 2012 in much the same way that Ms. Palin skirts it. In other words, she’s issuing non-denials that may be intended to keep her options open.

Got all that?

Let’s start at the beginning – there’s been a lot of media gab in the last several days about a possible presidential bid by the outspoken Rep. Bachmann. This stems from the fact that she is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at a political fundraiser in Des Moines, Iowa, on January 21. She’s going to make other public stops in that early 2012 caucus state while she’s there.

And as Bachmann herself said on Thursday, “if you speak in Iowa today, most people think you’re running for president.”

Bachmann’s been directly asked by a number of interviewers whether she’s contemplating a run, and she does not say she isn’t. Instead, she says that she is focused on the issues. (She is very big on shrinking the federal government. Just in case you wondered which issues she is talking about.) She says she is not concerned with what happens to her. She says the whole discussion is boring, and that it’s too early to focus on the question of who’s running for the GOP nomination.

“I just think that’s the wrong question to ask for the next year,” she told Greta Van Susteren on Fox News Wednesday.

OK, Sarah Palin is a little further along on this, in that she at least admits she’s thinking about the whole thing. But the way Bachmann talks about the question today is just the way Palin talked about it a few months ago.

Is the GOP ready for two female tea party candidates from the frozen north? Probably not. Most presidential fields get winnowed down to candidates from different niches vying with each other – a southerner versus a westerner versus a religious right candidate versus a moderate, and so forth.

So Bachmann might just be enjoying her moment. Or she might be biding her time to see if Palin runs after all. If the ex-governor of Alaska decides she’d rather focus on her lucrative media activities, Bachmann could present herself as a shovel-ready Palin alternative.

In some ways, Bachmann might be the better candidate. Sure, she’s said controversial things in the past, and her phrasing isn’t always crisp.

But Bachmann is focused like a laser beam on the tea party’s favorite issues. She’s got that politicians’ gift of driving home a central message in an interview, using the word “repeal” to refer to the health care vote, the “repeal” of Nancy Pelosi from the Speakership, and the possible “repeal” of Obama in 2012, for example. She currently holds political office, so she’s got motive and means to stay in the national spotlight.

In fact, Tina Fey’s probably practicing a Michele Bachmann impersonation right now. Just to keep her comedic options open.

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