Republican presidential candidates, from left, Rep. Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Sept. 12, 2011.
Republican presidential candidates, from left, Rep. Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Sept. 12, 2011. Chris O'Meara/AP
Could Mitt Romney get any luckier?
It's no secret the former Massachusetts governor has little credibility with the Tea Party segment of the Republican Party. So his attacks on the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has many fans among Tea Partiers would likely be quickly discounted.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, on the other hand, has had a lot of credibility with Tea Party voters in recent months.
So when she attacks Perry for the executive order he signed as governor that required 12-year old girls to receive the HPV vaccine, it gets traction with her base voters, despite Perry capturing, for the time being at least, many of their hearts.
As NPR Greg Allen reported for Morning Edition, that executive order was news to some Tea Party voters and some have found themselves liking Perry less after learning about it, thanks to Bachmann.
So Romney, the former frontrunner, is getting huge help from Bachmann. She can productively continue to diminish Perry in the eyes of the most energetic Republican voters so long as her money holds out, keeping her in the race.
And what makes matters even better from Romney's perspective is that he has little to fear from Bachmann who is unlikely to supplant Perry as a credible threat to Romney getting the nomination.
Again, it puts Romney in the sweet spot. He can keep pummeling Perry on Social Security all the while Bachmann is rhetorically caning the governor for the executive order.
If Bachmann didn't exist, Romney might have to invent her. She has become Romney's cat's paw.
By the way, the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza has an interesting take on Bachmann's use of the HPV vaccine issue against Perry to drive up his negatives. He writes that the questions surrounding Gardasil play to some of what the writer sees as some of her worst tendencies:
The HPV vaccine issue is ideal for Bachmann, who is the most intellectually irresponsible candidate in the Republican field. In the nineteen-nineties, when she was travelling around the state of Minnesota warning that new federal and state education standards would lead to totalitarianism, she often mentioned the tale of a little girl who was forced to clean toilets at a motel under the new laws—a story that produced audible gasps from her audiences. When Bachmann crusaded against same-sex marriage, she warned that children were the "prize" for the gay community. She is just getting started on HPV, and in front of much larger audiences than she ever had access to in her home state, she is already falsely linking the vaccine to mental disabilities.