Borrowing a page from Pat Robertson, whose 1988 Republican presidential run stumbled when his own partisan allies became ill at ease with too much mixing of religion and politics, Michele Bachmann seems to be making the wrath of God an issue in the 2012 GOP presidential race.

After last week’s East Coast earthquake and then the havoc wrecked by Hurricane Irene, the Minnesota congresswoman told a Florida crowd: “I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’ ”

That’s a clear turn toward the biblical by the already reasonably biblical Bachmann, who has taken her “last days” turns. And it might be seen as an attempt to counter the rising strength of Texas Governor Rick Perry—who seems to be drawing the more wide-eyed members of the GOP base away from the congresswoman.

But, wait, the Bachmann campaign says she was just joking. “Obviously she was saying it in jest,” said campaign spokesperson Alice Stewart.

Jesting about an earthquake and a hurricane—a hurricane that has left at least two dozen people dead?

That does not seem wise, even for Michele Bachmann.

So what’s really going on here?

Don’t doubt that Bachmann wants it both ways: a “wrath of God” speech for the faithful and just a “jest” for the rest of the country. She would not be the first politician to try that approach. Nor would she be the first presidential candidate to look just a little bit desperate about a fresh challenge in the race to to be the GOP’s most extreme contender.

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