JONATHAN CHAIT AUGUST 23, 2011
I was bullish on Michelle Bachmann's chances to make a splash in the race, and possibly even win, back when she was considered a Herman Cain-esque oddball candidate, because there's a large Republican constituency for a candidate frothing with rage against President Obama. But PPP's news Iowa poll shows Bachmann losing altitude rapidly. I won't say it's over for her, but Rick Perry seems to be offering a superior version of her product and it's hard to say what, outside a Perry implosion, could propel her ahead of him.
The poll also shows that Perry would stand to gain a huge amount from Bachmann dropping out of the race. In a three-way race, he would lead Mitt Romney by six points. In a two-way race, Perry's lead explodes to 18 points.
This suggests the possibility, though I don't really subscribe to it, that Perry's run of crazy statements was the expression of a conscious strategy -- first to box out Bachmann on his right flank, and then later take out Romney mano a mano. I suspect the reality is that Perry is just used to a millieu where you can say any crazy right-wing thing you want, up to and including threatening secession, without consequence. But maybe he's working his plan.