Seema Mehta presents an amazing list of errors in recent speeches of congressmember and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann.

What’s scary here is not so much that there’s a U.S. congresswoman running around who can’t seem to distinguish between truth and fiction—-after all, my very own congressman is reportedly a criminal, and I can only assume that he’s been too busy with his criminal enterprises to have paid much attention to politics for the past few decades—-but rather the rules of how her campaign is covered.

Basically, the rule is that we’re all allowed to laugh at her now that she’s so low in the polls. (In the most recent standings, she leads only Rick “Google” Santorum and Jon “Democrat” Huntsman in the race for the Republican nomination.) When she was doing well, the appropriate response was fear, perhaps covered by some hope that if she were actually elected she’s have advisers who would warn her before she was about to step off any cliffs.

We’re still allowed to laugh at Herman Cain, but that’s because everyone knows he won’t come close to the nomination. As an elected congressmember, Bachmann had was at one point a credible candidate.

This is a political science blog so I just want to focus on the challenge of studying the funneling process leading up to elections. With 535 congressmembers and 50 governors just as a starting point, there are a lot of potential presidential candidates. As well as lots and lots of people who can consider running for lesser offices. I’m not sure the right way to study this, but cases such as Bachmann (or various extremists who have come to power in other countries) make me think it could be important.

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

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Andrew Gelman

Andrew Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science and director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University.