Here are two words that ought to strike fear into the hearts of many Americans: President Bachmann. Although it’s definitely a long shot, and she’d be up against none other than Sarah Palin, Rep. Michele Bachmann could have been positioning herself to represent the tea party movement in a bigger way than just her response to Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night. John Nichols faces this alarming prospect, and critiques Bachmann’s speech, in his column for The Nation on Wednesday.

John Nichols in The Nation:

On style points and substance, Bachmann was shaky. At times, she seemed to be struggling to figure out which camera she was talking to. (Memo to SNL writers: Bachmann’s bumbles beat Palin’s anyday.) Nothing about her ramble through the standard talking points of the Republican right was going to appeal to wavering independents. And Democrats who tuned in for laughs and shock appeal. But the Tea Party base, which is a real force in the Republican Party now, got just what it wanted: wild ruminations about assaults on the Constitution, “Obamacare” and “job-killing” weatherization programs.

Bachmann didn’t suggest that Obama was born in Indonesia, or that the president might be turning the White House into a Marxist reeducation camp. She didn’t need to. She was the champion of the edgy activists who actually show up at Iowa precinct caucuses on mid-winter nights, and she was sharing the national platform on State of the Union night. At NPR’s website, the headline read: “Transcripts And Audio: Obama, Ryan, Bachmann.”

Obama, Ryan and not Sarah Palin.

Obama, Ryan and Michelle Bachmann.

With Palin’s star tarnished, Bachmann was exactly where she wanted—and needed—to be on the night that in so many senses the 2012 presidential race was beginning.

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