Was I wrong yesterday, maybe? Could it be that there’s actually some deep, deep, deep strategy here by which antagonizing Palin voters — many of whom would surely back Bachmann if Palin doesn’t run — is actually a good move for Team Michele?
Bachmann will “be so much more substantive [than Palin],” Rollins said. “People are going to say, ‘I gotta make a choice and go with the intelligent woman who’s every bit as attractive.’”
“I’m not afraid of Palin,” he said, adding the strategy would have been the same for Mike Huckabee…
A second top Bachmann ally — who spoke on the condition of anonymity — said Bachmann is well-positioned to take on Palin in the Iowa caucuses.
“The view in Iowa is that she’s unstable,” said the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “When she resigned her position as governor that whole event seemed odd, and people in Iowa saw that.”
“Bachmann 2012: Attractive and intelligent, unlike certain other people.” And yet, comically, Rollins later went on to tell CNN that “In the long run we want Palin and her people as our allies.” How’s that working out? Round two — SarahPAC fires back:
“Beltway political strategist Ed Rollins has a long, long track record of taking high profile jobs and promptly sticking his foot in his mouth,” said Sarah PAC chief of staff Michael Glassner in an emailed statement. “To no one’s surprise he has done it again, while also fueling a contrived narrative about the presidential race by the mainstream media. One would expect that his woodshed moment is coming and that a retraction will be issued soon.”
A retraction? That’s not in the Rollins playbook, although he’s willing to eat a little shinola to take some heat off his new employer. Round three, in which he backs off and then doubles down on yesterday’s claim that Palin hasn’t been serious for years:
“As far as we’re concerned, it’s not” an ongoing fight, he insisted. “This was my one comment, which I shouldn’t have made, at the end of the day this has nothing to do with Michele, Michele’s campaign, or any of the rest of it. This was my transition from being an analyst to a political strategist, and I missed a step.”…
Of Team Palin’s call for a retraction, he said, “What’s the retraction? I say she’s serious?”
Translation: He meant every word, he probably just shouldn’t have said it. And thus is Herman Cain’s lock on “second choice” status among Palinistas secured. Just to make this doubly awkward, in fact, here’s what Rollins had to say about Bachmann herself back in January when he thought he’d be running Huckabee’s campaign instead:
“Michele Bachmann obviously is a member of Congress and a representative of the tea party,” Rollins told CNN viewers. “But at the end of the day, we have to get our serious players out front and talking about the things that matter to be the alternative to the president and Democrats.” In other words, he did not consider Bachmann a “serious” GOP player. (Just this week, Rollins bashed another tea party leader, Sarah Palin, as someone who “has not been serious over the last couple of years.”…
Asked by Mother Jones to explain his recent criticism and dismissal of Bachmann, Rollins quipped in an email, “That was before she hired me! There are great downsides to having been a political analyst with hundreds of appearances over the years. And that is there are quality journalists out there…who pay attention and return to haunt us with our own words.” Rollins went on to say, “My comments regarding the [State of the Union] rebuttal wasn’t meant that she wasn’t serious, it [was] just she wasn’t part of the leadership or a committee chairman and for that reason the mainstream media wasn’t going to carry her message.” That’s not bad spin, but clearly at the time Rollins was characterizing Bachmann as a marginal figure in the Republican Party.
In his email, Rollins added, “Not being part of the establishment and DC crowd could now be a great advantage” for Bachmann. As for his [subsequent] claim that Bachmann (like Trump) couldn’t win the GOP nomination, Rollins said he’d changed his mind because the Minnesota Republican “now has a campaign team and a more open field.”
So not only did he antagonize grassroots Palin voters whom his candidate needs, he did it via the same sort of critique he’d leveled at Bachmann, thereby guaranteeing that it’ll be thrown back in her face every time someone in her camp tries to question Palin’s “seriousness.” Brilliant.
Exit question: What if, instead of his schtick about her seriousness and intelligence, Rollins had criticized Palin for failing to finish her term as governor? Would Palin supporters consider that a fair knock in the spirit of “politics ain’t beanbag”? What if he argued that polling on the question of whether she’s qualified to be president is too far gone for her to be viable against Obama in the general election? That is to say, is there any sort of criticism available to the other candidates — each of whom is, after all, trying to defeat her for the nomination — that can be leveled at her without qualifying as a disqualifying “low blow”? Bear in mind that policy differences within the field will be minimal, especially among tea-party favorites like Palin, Bachmann, and Cain. Voters will be looking at intangibles to help them decide which of the three they prefer. Which intangibles are fair game and which aren’t?