There is something strange in the air when former President Clinton compliments Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann. Speaking on CNN last week, Mr. Clinton said that he is not surprised the Congresswoman is rising in the polls because she is a "compelling public figure" and comes across as "real."
Since Mrs. Bachmann pretty much opposes everything Bill Clinton believes in, the question becomes exactly why does he think she's compelling. It can't be her ardently pro-life views. Or her lower taxes, smaller government beliefs. Or even her call to abolish national health care. Bill Clinton can't find those things attractive at all. And the Congresswoman absolutely loves the Tea Party. Is the former president down with that?
Can't be. So, I sense some gamesmanship in the air, and I suspect it has to do with Sarah Palin. Most Democrats loathe Governor Palin so much that they are happy to see a candidate who is taking up some of her air time. Both Bachmann and Palin appeal to the same audience: traditional, conservative working folks. Their views are almost identical on many subjects, but Mrs. Bachmann, for some reason, seems to be easier for the Democrats to accept.
This might come down to personality. Sarah Palin has a harder edge than Michele Bachmann. A new Granite State Poll in New Hampshire puts Palin's unfavorable opinion rating among registered Republicans at a whopping 52%, with 41% approving of her. On the other hand, 52% like Congressman Bachmann; just 23% do not.
So you would think that Democrats would want to promote a Republican who has high negatives instead of one who is gaining momentum. Not in this case.
It seems that Sarah Palin has replaced George W. Bush has the person many liberal Americans love to hate. That has benefited Michele Bachmann, who is getting compliments aimed at bolstering her candidacy at Palin's expense. Democrats well understand that the GOP does not have room for both women in the primary fray. They would split the Tea Party vote.
On paper, the Democrats should want that split. But they don't seem to be promoting it. Clearly, big liberal guys like Bill Clinton are openly rooting for Mrs. Bachmann to hold the Tea Party banner, and, if you believe the polls, it has to be personal. Because tactically at this point, Bachmann is more of a threat to the Democrats than Palin is.
The end game, of course, will be quite different. If Michele Bachmann were to win the Republican nomination, I have no doubt that Bill Clinton might not find her as compelling as he once did. In light of that, here's a memo to the former president: Let's keep it real, sir.