There is something strange in the air when former President Bill Clinton compliments tea party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann. Speaking on CNN last week, Clinton said he is not surprised the congresswoman is rising in the polls, because she is a "compelling public figure" and comes across as "real."
Since Bachmann pretty much opposes everything Clinton believes in, the question becomes exactly why does he think she's compelling. It can't be her ardently pro-life views. Or her lower taxes and smaller government beliefs. Or even her call to abolish national health care. Clinton wouldn't find those things attractive at all. And the congresswoman absolutely loves the tea party. Is the former president down with that?
Can't be. So, I sense some gamesmanship in the air, and I suspect it has to do with Sarah Palin.
Most Democrats loathe Palin so much that they are happy to see a candidate who is taking up some of her airtime. Both Bachmann and Palin appeal to the same audience: traditional, conservative working folks. Their views are almost identical on many subjects. But Bachmann, for some reason, seems to be easier for the Democrats to accept.
This might come down to personality. Palin has a harder edge than Bachmann. A new Granite State poll in New Hampshire puts Palin's unfavorable opinion rating among registered Republicans at a whopping 52 percent, with 41 percent approving of her. On the other hand, 52 percent like Bachmann and just 23 percent do not.
So you would think Democrats would want to promote a Republican who has high negatives instead of one who is gaining momentum. Not in this case.
It seems that Palin has replaced George W. Bush as the person many liberal Americans love to hate. That has benefited Bachmann, who is getting compliments aimed at bolstering her candidacy at Palin's expense.
Democrats well understand that the GOP does not have room for both women in the primary fray. They would split the tea party vote.
On paper, the Democrats should want that split. But they don't seem to be promoting it. Clearly, big liberal guys like Clinton are openly rooting for Bachmann to hold the tea party banner, and if you believe the polls, it has to be personal. Tactically at this point, Bachmann is more of a threat to the Democrats than Palin is.
The end game, of course, will be quite different. If Bachmann were to win the Republican nomination, I have no doubt that Clinton might not find her as compelling as he once did. In light of that, here's a memo to the former president: Let's keep it real, sir.