by Joe Shea
January 2, 2012
THE POWER OF BACHMANN
BRADENTON, Fla., Jan. 2, 2012 -- News Flash: Rep. Michelle Bachmann will not be dropping out of the race for the Republican nomination after the caucus results are announced tomorrow night.
I watched on C-SPAN early this morning as she appeared and spoke at the Jubilee Family Church in Oskaloosa, Iowa, a dot on the map that is a long way from Des Moines, the biggest and best-known city in the state.
Bachmann's a profoundly religious Christian, the product of generations of Lutherans who settled and fought for a toehold in Iowa well over a century ago. She spoke about her family of 28 (23 are fgioster children) and her husband, and of the kind of faith that has seen her through what should have been a disappointing and difficult campaign.
Most recently, her state campaign chair, a State Sen. named Thompson, showed up at a rally for Rep. Ron Paul and endorsed Paul over her for the presidency. I heard on the radio on the way back from church Sunday evening that other campaign staff, including her political director, had left on New Year's Day.
Her talk at the Jubilee Family Church didn't mention any of those things. Instead, she spoke of a little-known character from the Bible's story of Samuel, about a man named Jonathan and his brave armor-bearer in a battle against a large army of Philistines gathered atop a cliff.
While Jonathan's father, Saul, chose a different strategy, he and his armor-bearer, who swore his allegiance to Jonathan without reservation, went up the cliff together. Against a fierce enemy in an impregnable position, the two prevailed.
Bachmann never compared herself to Jonathan, or deliberately drew a comparison between him and her campaign; she did convey the sense of the indomitability of faith, and the power of God, in human affairs. There is no give-up in her, as there surely is in most of us, including me.
"I am not a politician, I am a real established person, and that's what Iowans want," she says with that indominitable faith.
When the 43 percent of Iowan caucus-goers who have told numerous pollsters they have not yet made up their minds about the candidate they will support on Tuesday, people presume their votes will be allocated among the front-runners. I propose to you that a great many of those will instead go to Michelle Bachmann, the "established person" and authentic conservative who won the Iowa Straw Poll at the outset of the 2012 campaign.
Whether it's her faith, her unyielding views, her determined persistence, her 28 children or her aggressive views toward Iran, she will not be forgotten. A great many undecided votes will be cast for her, and they may carry the day.
I listened with unusual interest to Bachmann's "sermon," which was every inch of that. It came from her heart, and from the cauldron of experience. She has been through an awful lot, and here at the end of her campaign she is unabashedly praising God, giving witness to a faith that will not be stilled by any souring of her political fortunes.
It's not what you would hear from Herman Cain or any of the Iowa competition or former Utah Gov. and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, who wrote off Iowa long ago and has surged a little in New Hampshire as a result of the time he freed up there to seek that primary victory.
Frankly, I have listened to an awful lot of C-SPAN during the campaign thus far. I think I can tell the difference between what the Jubilee church's pastor, Rev. Bill Tvedt, spoke of as words without belief.
I rarely hear words come from the heart of Mitt Romney, who probably talks too much, anyway, or from Jon Huntsman. Ron Paul's is a basically intellectual approach, as is Newt Gingrich's, but they do usually display some of their inner feelings during talks. Rick Santorum is a straight-shooter, I think, and I believe Iowans have felt that.
In fact, if as many pundits believe, Santorum will win Tuesday night, it will be for that quality. He is young, good-looking, plenty articulate and very conservative, and like Michelle Bachmann, he is what Iowans want in a conservative. Even his name comes from the Church of the Latin Mass - the Sanctum Sanctorum" is the Holy of Holies," so the religious bind he feels to a Creator may almost be a genetic trait. He must have enormous faith, too, to keep pressing on through each of the 99 counties of Iowa with his message.
Think about it: You've abandoned everything else you might be doing in the prime of your life and swung out on a quixotic crusade to get yourself elected President of the United States, i.e., to become the most powerful person in the entire world. You have run through all or most of your money, been jeered by every talking head on tv, been shunted in advance to that awful category of also-ran despite all the magnificent things you've otherwise accomplished, and have probably shown up after a two-hour drive and a 15-hour day to at least a few coffee or pizza shops or fire stations or library meeting rooms where only five or six people have bothered to attend. Your staffers have abandoned and betrayed you - and no brave armor-bearer, unless it was your wife - has stuck with you.
You have given 500 speeches and shaken half a million hands - many more than once - and the result is that you have won the hearts of 1 percent of the state's voters. You know you're not that bad, but the people have made other choices. It has to be extremely frustrating. You need to be a very strong person. And faith must have a very tangible, present, real and significant meaning for you.
When I read or hear that various talking heads have said Bachmann or Santorum will drop out, I now know they are wrong, at least at this stage of the great game. They both will persevere, and Michelle Bachmann will fight all the way to the convention floor in Tampa next August. That's just who she is. Update: Actually, Bachmann dropped out of the race Jan. 4, on the morning after the Iowa caucuses.
Write AR Correspondent Joe Shea at firstname.lastname@example.org.