If Sarah Palin runs, will she face her own Mini-Me?

If Sarah Palin enters the 2012 presidential race, she may face a woman who also has tea party backing and an accent that evokes the frozen north. Would Michele Bachmann have the edge?

Ed Andrieski/AP
In this May 2 file photo, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin waves during a fundraiser at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, Colo.
Jim Cole/AP
Possible 2012 presidential hopeful, Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R) of Minn., speaks during a We the People candidates forum, on April 30, in Manchester, NH.

It’s looking more and more like Sarah Palin is going to run for president. She’s touring historic sites on the East Coast this weekend in a big bus tour, for instance. Who’d brave Memorial Day traffic for that? Someone who wants as much publicity as possible for a very special upcoming announcement, that’s who.

But here’s a question: If Ms. Palin gets in, will she be competing with her own Mini-Me? Will she face a woman very much like her, with tea party backing and an accent reminiscent of the frozen north?

It appears that would be the case. We’re talking about Michele Bachmann, of course. She’s the congresswoman from Minnesota who delivered the tea party response to President Obama’s State of the Union address.

Ms. Bachmann has been toying with a presidential bid for months. Many pundits said she was waiting to see if Palin would run, and if the ex-Alaska governor opted out, the current Minnesota lawmaker would opt in. If that’s the case, she may be tired of waiting. On Thursday she announced that she’ll be announcing for president next month in Waterloo, Iowa, where she was born (unless she decides not to, as there’s still a sliver of a chance she won’t enter the 2012 GOP campaign).

In a conference call with reporters, Bachmann said she had great respect for Sarah Palin but that Palin’s presidential decision won’t affect her own.

“I don’t believe that any two candidates are interchangeable. I believe each one of us brings our own unique skill set into this race,” said Bachmann, according to Politico.

Well, they’re not interchangeable, in the sense that Palin’s kids would probably notice if Bachmann sneaked into their house and tried to make them do their homework. But Bachmann is about Palin’s age, and has longish brown hair like her, and sounds kind of like her. She thinks America is threatened by radical big government, like Palin does. She’s against Obama’s health-care law, and pro-gun and ant-abortion. She’s used to snow.

“She’s sort of a mini-Palin,” says Steven Schier, a political scientist at Carleton College in Minnesota.

If they face off, who’ll win? After all, the GOP presidential race probably has room for only one female tea party candidate with lots of parkas.

Mr. Schier gives the nod to Palin. She’s got far more name recognition, higher poll numbers, and a dedicated national fan base.

“If Palin runs, then the air goes out of Bachmann’s balloon,” says Schier.

Others aren’t so sure. Bachmann did not resign from her elected office and then star in a reality show, as Palin did. She’s a sitting lawmaker who may be able to talk policy, particularly economic policy, with more fluency than Palin can.

“She’s a very good campaigner. She’s kind of Sarah Palin with a better attention span and a greater strategic sense,” says Larry Jacobs, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota.

Bachmann shrugs off political attacks better than Palin does, in the eyes of some expert observers. She just moves on, without getting bogged down issuing Facebook posts that criticize her critics.

Of course, Bachmann hasn’t had Palin-level attention on her, either. Palin has the experience of having already run on the national level.

“I think [Bachmann] has benefited in the past because the klieg lights weren’t on her. It’s an entirely different matter when you’re a presidential candidate and have 24/7 scrutiny,” says Mr. Jacobs.

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