Yesterday, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) hired Ed Goeas, a top-tier GOP pollster who had been working for Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s (R) presidential campaign. Today, Bachmann’s long-time chief of staff announced he’s leaving her congressional office in order to “take an exciting new position” with Bachmann.

In other words, Michele Bachmann is actually going to run for president.

Indeed, the right-wing Minnesotan, referring to herself in third person, told a New Hampshire radio station this week that Democrats are “terribly afraid of a Michele Bachmann candidacy for president of the United States.”

I’m quite certain that’s false. Indeed, Democrats would likely be doing cartwheels if they thought Bachmann had a legitimate shot at the Republican nomination. Dems may be “terribly afraid” of a Bachmann presidency, but she’s deluding herself if she seriously believes Dems fear her as a credible national player.

Nevertheless, Jon Chait continues to make the case that Bachmann shouldn’t be dismissed entirely. As he sees it, Romney is “both ideologically and religiously unacceptable” to much of the GOP base; Huntsman has even bigger troubles; Pawlenty is struggling to catch on; Herman Cain can’t compete over the long haul; and Bachmann can capture the support of much of the right.

She’s been honing her pitch before Tea Party rallies for two years, building a national constituency and a fund-raising base. […]

[W]hile Bachmann may be even crazier than Palin on questions of public policy, she seems to manage to hold things together as a candidate. She can answer questions from the news media. She is putting together a professional campaign rather than relying on amateur advisors. She takes care to point out frequently that she is a former tax lawyer, and she does not engage in Palin’s visceral anti-intellectualism, giving herself the aura of a plausible president, at least in the minds of Republican voters.

I don’t disagree with any of Chait’s particular observations, all of which are accurate and fair. But I still can’t bring myself to see Bachmann as anything but a joke who would struggle badly to compete anywhere outside the Iowa caucuses.

Her principal problem is, to put it gently, she’s stark raving mad. Even in a radicalized party and the most extreme House majority caucus in generations, Bachmann stands out as one of Congress’ most loony-tunes members.

I won’t deny that this is likely to help Bachmann with many equally-unhinged Republican voters, but I also believe the party desperately wants to win in 2012. Even the most wild-eyed Tea Party fanatic understands, at a certain level, that the American mainstream is far more likely to laugh at Michele Bachmann than vote for her.

But by all appearances, she’s poised to give it a shot anyway.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.