Goofy Punditry Alert

More minor presidential campaign news yesterday: Michele Bachmann signed up veteran GOP famous guy Ed Rollins to run her campaign.

Outside of my skepticism about whether Rollins is actually any good at the job — yes, he did help navigate Mike Huckabee to a win in Iowa in 2008, but other than that his big claim to fame was managing Ronald Reagan’s re-election campaign in 1984, which wasn’t exactly piloting the Miracle Mets or anything like that — what really puzzles me is Mark Halperin’s reaction:

This is bad news for Tim Pawlenty (Rollins managed Huckabee to an Iowa caucuses win four years ago) and great news for Romney (a strong Bachmann will push the establishment faster into the arms of the frontrunner.

This seems to be, as far as I can tell, a complete misreading of the GOP field. Pawlenty is running as the all-of-the-above candidate; he stands to win if Republicans want a normally credentialed nominee who is solid on every issue without being crazy and if, for a variety of possible reasons, the party rejects Mitt Romney.

As such, he certainly needs to demonstrate at least some ability to draw votes in Iowa, but that’s about it; most of what matters to Pawlenty is whether any other candidate shows up who encroaches on his turf, and then what happens to Romney. Bachmann is mostly irrelevant to that.

Now, it could play out the way that Halperin I suppose sees it: Pawlenty finishes well back in Iowa, Bachmann looks like a threat to win the nomination, and Romney is the only one remaining to stop her. But really, the key is Pawlenty doing bad, not the rest of it. If, for example, Iowa finishes Bachmann/Pawlenty/Romney, well, it’s just as likely that the former Minnesota governor becomes the focus of Stop Bachmann efforts.

My best guess is that Bachmann is massively overrated by those who pay a lot of attention to cable news networks; I suspect she won’t wear well as a presidential candidate. But I guess the main point here is that I’m not at all convinced that it matters very much exactly how well she does in Iowa. She wins or she finishes a weak third or fizzles out and places sixth — either way, Republicans who want a candidate who is acceptable to conservatives and also promises to be a respectable nominee are choosing between Pawlenty and Romney (and, if he gets in, Rick Perry).

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.