Michele Bachmann

January 1, 2012 by staff 

Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann, Desperate for a late lift in Iowa, Republican Michele Bachmann is increasingly stressing a distinction in the presidential field: She’s the only woman competing for the nomination.

The Minnesota congresswoman has made the gender card central to her closing argument. She’s urging voters to embrace the idea of a “strong woman in the White House” and is molding herself as “America’s Iron Lady” in the vein of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

It’s a play that carries as much risk as potential reward because some of the ardent religious conservatives she’s aggressively courting have traditional views about gender roles.

History is not on Bachmann’s side, either. Iowa has never elected a woman as governor or to its congressional delegation, a footnote shared only with Mississippi.

It was only a few years ago when GOP presidential nominee John McCain energized his campaign by putting Sarah Palin on the ticket, inspiring a hot pink-shirted army of voters the folksy former Alaska governor affectionately coined “mamma grizzlies.” Palin opted out of the 2012 race and so far isn’t pushing her followers in any direction.

Bachmann seldom underscored gender early in her campaign. She would sprinkle in mentions of motherhood and even shared an emotional story about how a miscarriage fortified her anti-abortion views. But she was mostly content letting voters notice the obvious difference on their own as she stood on debate stages surrounded by a bunch of men.

But as Bachmann darted around Iowa in the hectic days before Tuesday’s caucuses, she hit the woman theme hard.

“I’m an Iowa girl. And one thing I remember about Iowa is we are a state of strong women,” Bachmann told the lunch crowd at a 50s-themed burger joint in Mount Ayr. “We need a strong woman to turn this country around, right?”

Longtime residents Margaret Bickers and Mary Davenport, sitting in a booth near Bachmann, nodded in agreement.

“Women are just more passionate than the men,” Bickers told a reporter. “We need a woman who is not afraid to vocalize that passion and effect change.”

“It takes a woman to get things done,” Davenport chimed in. Both said they were inclined to caucus for Bachmann.

Bachmann dispenses warm hugs as readily as simple handshakes. She’ll sometimes run her hand along another woman’s back during conversations, extended contact her male challengers tend to avoid.

When a 90-year-old woman shared that she was a mother of 12, Bachmann crouched by her side to hear more. “What a blessing,” the candidate said.

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