Remember, when Michele Bachman says things like this, she’s not kidding.

The morning after her win in the Ames straw poll, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) argued that she could appeal to independent and Democratic leaning voters in a general election and dismissed the challenge from new contender Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

“We had people here yesterday who are independents and Democrats,” Bachmann said on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday.

Bachmann stressed that her home state, Minnesota, was “not a conservative state” and that her own district was a “swing district” that voted to elect then-Gov. Jesse Ventura. “I’ve been able to attract a lot of people to vote for me,” she said.

Bachmann is, by any reasonable measure, one of the most deranged presidential contenders in generations, but she’s at least aware of the perceptions about her. If Bachmann is going to remain a top-tier candidate for the presidency — a sentence I’m barely even comfortable typing — she’s going to have to convince a lot of Republicans that she can win a national election and appeal to voters outside the GOP’s radical base.

But there’s just one problem with this: the very idea is preposterous. Bachmann is stark raving mad, delivering red meat to extremists who savor every morsel, but the notion that her appeal is broad enough to include significant numbers outside Republican activists is simply comical on its face.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be true; Bachmann just has to convince sympathetic voters it might be true. It’s a test, not only of GOP voters’ judgment, but also of their gullibility.

Steve Benen

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.