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November 19th, 2010 3:52 pm
Michele Bachmann’s Fate Shows Pitfalls of Being an Outsider Inside Congress

Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) recent failure to win the chairmanship of the House Republican Conference Committee is an important reminder for the wave of new GOP congress members coming into office in January.  If you spend more time courting a movement outside Congress, don’t be surprised when those inside it promote from within.

Such is the case of Michele Bachmann.  Widely considered the highest profile Tea Party leader inside the federal government, Bachmann’s loss to Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) for the chairmanship is linked to her cultivated outsider status.  She may be brilliant with red meat speeches and raising money, but she is presumed to be light on policy details.  Moreover, the time she spent promoting the Tea Party were moments taken away from building the kinds of relationships with fellow members that lead to endorsements and favorable chairmanship votes.  That, more than anything else, explains the reason Bachmann lost to Hensarling.

But it isn’t just Bachmann that needs to consider how to parlay her grassroots support into actual results as a member of Congress.  The GOP leadership too needs to weigh carefully how to grow her brand while enhancing its own appeal to Tea Party voters.  Perhaps the latter consideration is what led House Republicans to create a new leadership position for the incoming class.  Ironically, the Republican congress member most deserving of representing the views of this Tea Party-flavored class is Bachmann herself.  Too bad the position is only open to freshmen.

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