Mitt Romney may have won the New Hampshire debate but the big winner was Michele Bachmann, who by reason of her own zippy performance and Tim Pawlenty’s wimpish one has managed to vault into the top tier as Romney’s top challenger from the right. WaPo and NYT, sticking to the Beltway narrative that we now live in a political world where there’s a Tea Party and social conservatives rather than a religious right and white evangelicals, do not so much as mention religion in their stories today on the Bachmann surge. But heading into Iowa and beyond, that will be the key to her success.
The Daily Beast’s Michelle Goldberg has the skinny on Bachmann’s religious trajectory, and there can be no question that the Minnesota congresswoman is the very model of a modern evangelical pol. About the only thing that’s obscure is what church she belongs to, but that’s become characteristic of prominent Republicans these days. It’s been five years since she identified herself as belonging to the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Stillwater, part of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. That opened her up to charges that she herself embraces such denominational positions as that the pope is the Antichrist. Like an increasing number of evangelicals, she’s hardly alone in fleeing denominational labels. (Sorry, SBC.)
In the House of Representatives, Bachmann heads the Tea Party Caucus. Her negatives with Republican voters are low. She can raise campaign funds like crazy. And she’s signed up Mike Huckabee’s former campaign manager (Ed Rollins) and communications chief (Alice Stewart). You figure the GOP Establishment is wishing now that that it was Sarah Palin they had to contend with.