When you’ve got a puppy with a habit of crapping on the carpet, you may need to rub his face in it to set him right.

Serious candidates require serious message discipline, and as of last Monday’s debate, she’s most definitely a serious candidate:

“We need Mrs. Bachmann out front and we need the campaign to be a real campaign with one spokesperson and a disciplined message,” said one Bachmann adviser granted anonymity to speak candidly about strategy…

Bachmann’s newly installed political team has had its own battles with message discipline — typified by campaign manager Ed Rollins’ recent comments alleging that former Alaska governor Sarah Palin hasn’t been “serious” over the last few years.

After the incident, Bachmann was “very firm” with Rollins, according to an adviser to the congresswoman, telling him this should not happen again and that there should be “no more press”. Bachmann also demanded that Rollins call the Palin people and apologize. “She is definitely not tone deaf,” the source added.

Bachmann’s move to limit her exposure in the wake of her debate performance is a smart strategy designed to avoid accidentally trampling on the momentum she built with that performance.

Such is Palin’s conservative cachet among the base, I think, that not even Michele Bachmann would feel completely safe from charges of RINO-ism if she had let Rollins’s attack slide. Already I’ve seen her dismissed by a few people in the comments here and elsewhere as some sort of stalking horse for Romney whose mission is to clear his way to the nomination by siphoning off votes from Pawlenty and Palin. What she’d be hoping to gain from doing that, I’m not sure; James Taranto imagined a Romney/Bachmann ticket a few days ago, but I’ve always figured Mitt would want a southerner as VP to shore up his support regionally. She hit him over the weekend for failing to sign the Susan B. Anthony List’s pro-life pledge (note the bit at the end of her statement drily alluding to his previous flip-flop on abortion), so whatever her ultimate strategy is, it doesn’t involve treating Romney with kid gloves.

If she’s looking to stay in the good graces of Palin fans, whose votes she’ll potentially need down the line, why didn’t she demand that Rollins apologize publicly? The passage in the WaPo piece quoted above, buried several paragraphs down, is the first I’ve heard of it.