Michele Bachmann had a higher NumbersUSA grade on immigration than any other presidential candidate. For this reason alone, it is disappointing to see her leave the race today after her dismal 6th place showing in Iowa—less than five months after her campaign hit its high point in Iowa when she won the Ames Straw Poll.
What happened—and could she have used the cause of patriotic immigration reform to prevent this fate?
I will acknowledge that there were a lot of factors at work.
Bachmann, more than any other candidate provoked knee jerk animus from the Main Stream Media (MSM) and liberal elites. This can be an asset in a Republican primary. But it also forced every misstatement she made into headline news, and slowly wore down her support.
Bachmann was the first anti-Romney “Flavor of the Month”. She was subsequently replaced by Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and now Rick Santorum. With the exception of Santorum (as of this writing), not one of these candidates seemed to be able to recover once they were knocked from that spot. Perhaps Bachmann’s time simply passed in August.
However, in contrast to Gingrich, Perry, and Cain, who fell from the top because of their ineptitudes and indiscretions, Bachmann was simply upstaged by Rick Perry’s announcement the day she won in Ames.
Perry, who had been hinting at a run for weeks, timed his announcement to take the wind from Bachmann’s sails. Why go for a Congresswoman from Minnesota, when you could have a three-term governor of the second largest—both in population and land—in the United States? With his Texas swagger and the MSM accusing him of wanting to hang the head of the Federal Reserve and secede from the Union, he seemed just as much a Tea Partier as Bachmann, but with more money, organization, and credentials.
Of course, on the issue of immigration, Perry was simply a servant of the cheap labor “Slave Power”. As governor, he opposed E-Verify, SB 1070 and a border fence. He supported amnesty and in-state tuition for illegals.
Some of Bachmann’s supporters did work the immigration issue. For example, the Keep Conservatives United Super Pac ran radio ads noting Perry and Bachmann’s divergent views on E-Verify, SB 1070, and benefits for illegals, concluding: “The difference is clear. To stop illegal immigration, support Michele Bachmann.”
However, the Bachmann campaign itself did not make much of the issue. Above all, she consistently avoided legal immigration—and never mentioned the idea of an anti-unemployment immigration moratorium.
Instead, her top challenge to Perry was over his mandating for middle school students the HPV vaccine—which happened to be manufactured by Merck, one of his top campaign donors, for whom his former chief of staff happened to be a lobbyist. Bachmann, an effective debater, certainly hurt Perry on this issue. But then she slipped up by repeating a claim from a supporter that her daughter became mentally retarded after getting the vaccine. And that became the story.
The MSM unquestionably made more of her faux pas than they would have done for other candidates. But it does demonstrate a problem: many Tea Partiers will jump onto any crazy conspiracy theory or paranoid idea about history—while avoiding the immigration issue for fear of being seen as “extreme.”
By the time Bachmann finally began attacking Perry over immigration, Herman Cain and Mitt Romney had already exploited Perry’s weakness on the issue.
Why did Bachmann fail to use immigration? VDARE.com Editor Peter Brimelow has suggested that Bachmann may have flinched from it, especially at a key moment in the debates, to curry favor with Romney in hopes of becoming VP. Last week, her former campaign manager Ed Rollins, trashing his former client as his amiable wont, publicly asserted that Bachmann was aiming for Mitt’s VP. [Rollins: Bachmann eyed Mitt VP slot , By Alexander Burns, POLITICO.com, December 30, 2011] So there might be something to it.
However, my view is that Bachmann is simply ignorant on the issue of legal immigration. After all, she did absolutely nothing about it in Congress.
Bachmann did make some remarks about the U.S. immigration system being better prior to the 1965 Immigration Act:
The immigration system in the United States worked very, very well up until the mid-1960s when liberal members of Congress changed the immigration laws. What works is to have people come into the United States with a little bit of money in their pocket legally with sponsors so that if anything happens to them, they don't fall back on the taxpayers to take care of them. And then they also have to agree to learn to speak the English language, learn American history and our constitution. That's the American way.
But Bachmann’s subtext is that, prior to the 1965 Act, our immigration policy was driven largely by what is good for American citizens—while now it is basically as a form of welfare for foreigners. To me, this shows that Bachmann’s instincts on legal immigration are solid—but she is utterly uneducated on the issue.
Frankly, unlike Peter Brimelow, I’m not sure that raising legal immigration would have helped Bachmann. Most Republican voters have unfortunately come to think that opposing illegal immigration means supporting legal immigration. They can be easily educated. But from a purely political point of view, it is not necessary to use the legal immigration issue unless you are trying to outflank someone who is already solid on illegal immigration. With this appalling crop of GOP Presidential contenders, Bachmann could have established herself as the leading opponent of illegal immigration in the field merely by emphasizing her support for SB 1070 and ending birthright citizenship.
But she failed even to do that.
And here, the blame can certainly be put in part on her advisors. Through mid-September, her campaign was run by Ed Rollins, a Beltway veteran consultant who is a long-time amnesty supporter and Hispanderer. Typically, Rollins took credit for her early rise, left shortly after Perry entered the race—probably when her fundraising stalled—and ever since then has made sniping criticisms suggesting that her problem was she didn’t listen to him enough.
Bachmann is also ultimately responsible for the choice of Wall Street Journal editor and Open Borders advocate John Fund to ghost her memoir Core of Conviction. Needless to say, it had absolutely nothing on immigration policy outside a few platitudes about her husband’s European immigrant background.
Michele Bachmann now needs to head back to Minnesota to ensure her reelection to Congress—or perhaps a Senate challenge to Democratic incumbent Amy Klobuchar.
Flinching from patriotic immigration reform in the presidential primaries, albeit at the behest of her high-paid East Coast advisers, certainly did her no good.
"Washington Watcher" [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.