- The Washington Times - Monday, June 27, 2011

When Rep. Michele Bachmann formally began her campaign for the presidency in Iowa on Monday, it was hardly “news” - in the traditional sense of something unknown or unreported.

About four weeks ago, she said she would take part in presidential debates. Two weeks ago, at the first one she attended, she told CNN’s audience she had just filed her paperwork to run for commander in chief.

It’s all part of the trend where candidates routinely pre-announce their candidacy, follow that up with an official announcement, and then a later official campaign “kickoff.” Essentially the same apple, but three bites, hoping to milk as much media attention as possible.

The Minnesota Republican isn’t alone. Much of the 2012 field of Republican White House hopefuls have strung out their announcements through a series of tweets, Web videos, interviews and leaks to the press over the past few weeks and months.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the nominal front-runner in the race, first announced via Twitter that he was forming a presidential exploratory committee, the first step in building buzz around a presidential bid - it’s a formal legal step that allows someone to raise funds, primarily.

Weeks later, he announced over Facebook that he would formally enter the race and then did so during a speech in New Hampshire, casting himself as the man who can put the nation’s fiscal house in order and telling supporters that “Barack Obama has failed America.”

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, meanwhile, announced on Facebook that he had formed an exploratory committee, later rolled out a video previewing his official entrance into the race, and finally entered the fray during a speech in Des Moines, painting himself as a fiscal warrior and also dubbing Mr. Obama as a failure.

“The more bites at the media apple, the better,” said Larry J. Sabato, a University of Virginia professor and author of “Feeding Frenzy, Attack Journalism and American Politics,” explaining the campaign psychology.

“First you hint you might run. Then you file an exploratory committee. Then you tell the media the response is so overwhelmingly positive you’re compelled to get in the race. And then you actually do it. A single announcement is segmented and dribbled out over months. That’s how you solve the problems of voter distraction and media fragmentation in 2011,” he said.

The formula has helped Mrs. Bachmann dominate much of the news coverage of the presidential race the past two weeks. It earned her a couple of appearances on the talk-show circuit over the weekend, where she previewed her announcement and had the luxury of lobbing some more rhetorical bombs at Mr. Obama.

On Monday, her remarks ran in newspapers across the country, and then she officially kicked off her campaign in Waterloo, all but guaranteeing another strong Bachmann showing in Tuesday’s news cycle.

Mr. Sabato said it works because of the fragmented media environment, where consumers no longer rely on a handful of newspapers and television networks to get their news. What is old to some readers and viewers is new to others.

It also depends on the horde of political reporters eager for events to cover so early in the campaign season, when the policy debate has not developed as deeply.

It also plays to the campaigns’ benefit in other ways, strategists said.

“The goal is for candidates to encourage as much media hype and fundraising from donors as potentially possible,” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican political consultant. “On a slow news day, a campaign announcement like Bachmann made can easily get wide coverage.”

The oversaturation of the press, however, also can turn into a headache, something Mrs. Bachmann likely was reminded of after giving a television interview Monday in which she promised to mimic the spirit of Waterloo’s own John Wayne.

But it soon became clear that Waterloo’s John Wayne was not the beloved movie star, but rather John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer.

In her speech Monday, Mrs. Bachmann told the supporters gathered there that she wanted her candidacy to stand for the moment when “We the People” pushed back against a government that has “gotten too big, spends too much and has taken away too much of our liberties.”

She said the nation can’t afford another four years of Mr. Obama, after his overhaul of the federal health care system, economic policies that have fed into a 9.1 percent unemployment rate, and a foreign policy based on an Obama administration characterizing of its Libya role as “leading from behind.”

“We can’t afford four more years of failed leadership here at home and abroad,” she said, before making the case that she can unify the conservative party when it comes to military, fiscal and social issues.

“It is made up of ‘peace through strength’ conservatives, and I am one of those,” she said. “It is made up of fiscal conservatives, and I am one of those. It is made up of social conservatives, and I am one of those. And it’s made up of the tea party movement, and I’m one of those.”