Yeah I know I’m late to the party, but here are my two cents,
1. It seems that Bachmann has made her greatest cultural mark as a focus of liberal self-congratulation. I don’t think sneering at a backbench House member who finished dead last in the one presidential delegate selecting contest she entered is helping liberals understand their opponents. I can see why it makes liberal journalists and their audiences feel better about themselves. I think that the impulse to sneer at and dismiss the opposition under pretense of concern for rhetorical hygiene will bring its own punishment in the end.
2. Maybe Bachmann’s greatest electoral legacy was her role in the Republican presidential debates before the Iowa Caucuses. Bachmann could always be counted on to attack any candidate who looked about to consolidate the anti-Romney vote.
She brutally took down Pawlenty when he made the mistake of taking her on in a contest of ideological purity. She participated in the gang attacks on Rick Perry (most famously on the Perry administration’s mandate that girls get the vaccine for the HPV virus.) When Gingrich became the frontrunner she focused her fire on him. Even her attacks on “Newt Romney” were aimed more at Gingrich since they attacked his credibility as a principled conservative. Shrinking the ideological distance between Romney and Gingrich worked to Romney’s advantage. Hardly anyone was voting for the formerly pro-choice former Massachusetts governor on the grounds that he was an authentic conservative.
From one perspective, Bachmann’s strategy made sense. As long as there was a vacuum to Romney’s right, there was a chance that she would be the one to fill it (for a while.) So she focused on taking down whatever right-of-Romney candidate who emerged from the pack and basically left Romney alone. After all, it wasn’t like she and Romney were competing for the same pool of voters.
And yet, while Bachmann chose the obvious (if cynical) strategy, she had another option. She was running as a conservative insurgent. She could have opposed the Republican establishment by attacking the obviously unprincipled front-runner who had the most establishment support. This would have involved risks. Romney was the most practiced and poised debater of the bunch. There was a chance Romney would have shredded her and, even if she scored some points against him, some other right-of-Romney candidate might have reaped the benefit. Still, she had a chance to take on the establishment’s candidate. For all her marketing as the conservative “tip of the spear”, Bachmann chose to act as the establishment candidate’s goon.