In her latest campaign advertisement, Michele Bachmann ends with the tag line “the unifying choice that will beat Obama.”
Paul Waldmann’s not impressed: “Move past the awkward grammar, and you have to ask: ‘Unifying?’ Michele Bachmann is many things, but ‘unifying’ isn’t one that immediately comes to mind.”
But that’s exactly why this is the right message for her. Bachmann’s appeal to grassroots voters in Iowa is clear. She’s from the region, and she’s identified with the religious conservatism that often drives GOP-side Iowa caucus-goers. Bachmann’s problem isn’t about assembling a persuasive pitch to that constituency. Her problem is that she doesn’t want to end up in the same dead-end as such past Iowa winners as Pat Robertson and Mike Huckabee. She needs to persuade the party in a larger sense that she represents the broad set of concerns that Republicans have and that she’s capable of winning a general election campaign. She has a reputation as a “tea party” candidate or a social issues candidate, but to win she needs to try to transcend that and become a unity candidate — a generic Republican, compared to whom it’s the others who look factional. The strategy may not work — she just doesn’t have the resume of a presidential nominee and nothing she can say changes that — but she seems to understand the problem correctly in a way that superficially more plausible Huckabee never did.