Watch below courtesy of a YouTube account titled, no joke, “BachmannLovesGacy.” The gaffe: She claimed in an interview with Fox News that she shares the spirit of another famous Waterloo, Iowa, resident, John Wayne. But John Wayne never lived in Waterloo; John Wayne Gacy did, which means this is either (a) another sloppy factual error a la her claiming that Lexington and Concord are located in New Hampshire or (b) some sort of Freudian slip that proves she secretly identifies with lunatics or something. (Bachmann loves Gacy!) Her critics will insist they’re sticking to the first narrative but their read on Bachmann has always been that she’s evil and/or nuts. See, e.g., Matt Taibbi’s long profile of Bachmann in Rolling Stone this month asserting that she’s “grandiose crazy, late-stage Kim Jong-Il crazy” or Colbert King recently dismissing her as “Barbie with fangs.” It’s embarrassing that she wouldn’t know that the Duke lived in Winterset, Iowa, not Waterloo, given that she’s been selling herself over the past few days as a proud Hawkeye, but no one will care in a day. Without the Gacy angle, though, to nudge along the “she’s nuts” storyline, you probably wouldn’t have heard of this; it would have been dismissed as her mixing up two town names that begin with “W” and that would have been it.
In fact, it’s even lamer than that. It turns out there is a Waterloo connection for John Wayne:
Bachmann’s campaign pointed out to ABC News today that actor John Wayne’s parents did live in Waterloo, although the actor himself did not.
And a little internet research proves that point correct.
According to the book “Duke: We’re Glad We Knew You” by Herb Fagen, Clyde and Molly Morrison – actor John Wayne’s parents – lived in Waterloo early in their marriage – but they moved to Winterset before the birth of son Marion Mitchell Morrison (he changed his name to John Wayne professionally).
Says Dave Weigel, “I’m not from a small town, but I’m from a pretty anonymous place (Wilmington, Delaware), and I know that when you’ve got a tenuous local connection to a celebrity, you flaunt it.” Someone probably once told her that John Wayne’s parents met in Waterloo and either she wrongly assumed he’d been born there or else she’s fumbling a talking point about John Wayne’s family being from Waterloo. But this is simply too stupid a story to devote any further thought to, so let’s move on.
A horse-race question for you, then, on the day of her big announcement. Is she actually performing better in Iowa than she might like right now? Trailing Romney by a single point after her big splash at the debate is a sensational debut, especially since he won’t be competing hard in the state. Her net favorable rating is the highest in the field at +53; by comparison, Rick Perry is at +35 and Palin is at +21. If her “Hawkeye pride” campaign catches fire there and she starts to build a big lead over the next few weeks with the Ames straw poll looming in August, why wouldn’t the rest of the field simply concede the state to her and move on to New Hampshire and South Carolina? Rick Perry’s reportedly already hedging his bets in Iowa, and even T-Paw could conceivably bail out early and spin Bachmann’s big win as simple favoritism for the hometown girl. That would diminish the momentum she’ll get from winning the caucuses; it’ll also sharpen the establishment’s focus on South Carolina as the place to stop Bachmann, which will help Pawlenty insofar as he stands a better chance there on paper than Romney does. That in turn might convince big donors to line up for T-Paw before New Hampshire to give him a strong showing there before the race heads to the south. She wants to (and has to) win Iowa, no doubt, but I’m not sure she wants an early walkover.