At least in Michele Bachmann’s mind.
With Mike Huckabee out of the running, with Newt Gingrich taking himself out of the running, with Mitt Romney running away from his own ideas, with Tim Pawlenty running out of ideas, and with Sarah Palin running for the money, the mini-Palin from Minnesota is sending every possible signal that she is going to bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
"Our phones have been ringing off the hook… people are saying, ‘Michele jump in, we want you to run,’" chirped Bachmann in an interview with the increasingly-friendly folks at Fox News. (Tired of waiting for Palin, and even more tired of defending Newt, they have begun to surrender to the Bachmann mystique.)
Bachmann modestly explained on Fox that she is in tune with the Republican grassroots and she just might be “what they’re looking for.”
The congresswoman who could not find the camera when she gave the Tea Party response to the Republican response (by an almost equally deer-in-the-headlightsy House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan) to President Obama’s State of the Union Address had set a June deadline for deciding whether to run.
But, now, with the GOP field imploding, Bachmann is talking about revving things before the month is done.
Conveniently, she’ll be touring the first-caucus state of Iowa May 26 and she will be in first-primary state of New Hampshire on Memorial Day.
And even if she cannot find the camera, the cameras will find her.
Palin will still grab attention for awhile; she sent out a teasing fund-raising letter Thursday. She tells his pal Sean Hannity that’s she’s "still talking about it…" Palin will continue to talk, and to raise money. But the polls and the patterns suggest she’s just maitaining her profile in the "lamestream leftist media."
So it is that, with the quitter governor of Alaska sending what are, at most, mixed signals about making a race that would require her to actually answer questions – rather than Tweet, update her Facebook page and repeat talking points for remarkably big bucks – Bachmann is the most interesting candidate this side of Ron Paul. And Paul is never going to get a fair hearing from Republican insiders – who are horrified by any candidate who takes seriously the part of the Constitution that charges Congress with checking and balancing the war machine – or a pundit class that dismisses libertarianism almost as quickly as it does socialism.
Bachmann, once the most unlikely of potential Republican runner, is now looking more and more like a certain contender.
No, she will not be the nominee. The GOP establishment is still muscular enough to prevent political train wrecks of an epic nature.
But Bachmann can run, raise remarkable amounts of money and still seek her congressional seat – Minnesota has one of the latest filing deadlines in the country, coming months after the race for the Republican nod is settled for a much-duller, much whiter-haired, much whiter guy like former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman or a late-starter like Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
And she can do something else.
She can steer the GOP debates in exactly the direction President Obama and his reelection campaigners hope it will head – toward the Tea Party fringe, with its passion for economic and social extremes that gets cheers from the end-timers who pack Iowa caucuses but scares the wits out of just about everyone else.
The loudest “Bachmann for President” chants will always be led by Bachmann herself — and, perhaps by the publisher of her upcoming book. (Suggested title: Going Roguer.) But those chants will also be sounded by the Tea Party camp and the same bemused and delighted Obama political staffers who are so enjoying Newt Gingrich’s candidacy.