It’s a question you could have asked any day this year. The Bachmann campaign was supposed to be the embodiment of the Tea Party. The movement had “catapulted her from a backbencher in Washington to a leading contender on the presidential trail”—this from the Lois Romano profile of Bachmann, largely remembered for the googly-eyed Newsweek cover it came with.
That cover ran right after the debt ceiling compromise, right when S&P downgraded America’s credit rating because, in part, “the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues.” When that happened, Bachmann was in Iowa reminding Republicans that she “led the fight against raising the debt limit.” She won the $35-per-ticket Ames Straw Poll, aided by her husband passing out free tickets from a golf cart. The very same day, Rick Perry entered the race. Bachmann would never again lead a poll in Iowa.
We can’t say Bachmann suffered because she was unserious. Come on. For a whole month, the Iowa frontrunner was Herman Cain. She didn’t have the money of Mitt Romney or Ron Paul, but there was a long period when few TV ads were running. The best explanation for her fade might be that Bachmann fell into a constant pattern of attack, a one-woman embodiment of the fight-happy Congress that even Republicans were showing fatigue with.