The XX Factor

Bachmann Emerges As Nutty Front-Runner

I must confess, Jessica , that last night I was derelict in my duties as someone who makes jokes on the Internet. I only watched about half the Republican debate in New Hampshire before boredom coupled with other duties compelled me to shut off the TV. Plus, I figured it really couldn’t get better than John King asking a clearly clueless Ron Paul if he preferred BlackBerrys or iPhones. (Recommended future questions that Ron Paul is sure to have a ready answer to: “Beyonce or Lady Gaga?” “Will Ferrell or Judd Apatow?” ” The Wire or True Blood ?”) But I hear that it basically came down to Michele Bachmann vs. Mitt Romney .

Agreed that Bachmann announcing her run during the debate was strange and immature, but it was also brilliant at the same time. She secured herself as the front-runner with the Crazy Coalition by doing so; they eat “strange and immature” for breakfast (it’s called the “Rush Limbaugh Show”). Besides the BlackBerry question, the second-best moment of the debate was when a clearly nervous self-described moderate Republican asked what the candidates intended to do to keep the crazies from running the show, and John King kicked the question to Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann, which is a little like asking Snoop Dogg about his plans to discourage marijuana use among the youth of America. Bachmann stomped her competition for the nut vote into the ground-Cain came across as defensive, Santorum looked like a deer in headlights, and Gingrich was clearly wondering right along with the rest of the country why he even bothered to show up. Barring any other upsets, Bachmann will be walking away with the Iowa primary. Now that that’s settled, I think the real fun can begin.

The real story is how well Romney did over Pawlenty for the probably-going-to-get-the-nomination spot. I continue to think Pawlenty has it in the bag because he’s the least offensive to all the various interest groups in the Republican Party, but after an initial stumble on health care reform, Romney seemed to do OK with the audience. Whoever coached him to try the “states’ rights” angle to explain away his support for universal health care in Massachussetts needs to be fired, though. “States’ rights” only matters to Republican voters when a state is in opposition to what Democrats in the federal government want.  As demonstrated with the widespread support for federal bans on abortion and gay marriage, “states’ rights” goes right out the window when it comes to states more liberal than Republican voters. Romney would probably do better to weep and apologize for his record, and say the evil Democrats made him do it.

Photograph courtesy of Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.