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Notes From the August 14, 2011 Broadcast of Meet The Press

August 14, 2011

Today’s broadcast began with a recap of Republican presidential nomination news over the last 48 hours: Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) won the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa (a near tie with Rep. Ron Paul [R-TX] actually), Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) got into the race and was immediately dubbed a front-runner by the press, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) dropped out of the race.

Bachmann was host David Gregory’s first guest today, and she was clearly going out of her way to appear calm, collected, and nice. She avoided any swipes at Pawlenty (a longtime rival) and talked about how she has attracted Democratic and Independent votes in Minnesota. She even said, “most Democrats are reasonable, fair minded people.”

Her tone felt like a deliberate and strategic pivot to make sure she looks presidential and can shake the “crazy” label. Gregory pushed her fairly hard on a few things and, for the most part, she stuck to this game plan. She gave the same answer she had in the debate on the “wives must be submissive” question.

Gregory played a clip where Bachmann says the gay life is sad, part of satan, and a type of sexual dysfunction. In response, she said she is opposed to gay marriage and tried to dodge the other characterizations.

Gregory kept pushing, and Bachmann did seem to wilt a little. She couldn’t back down on her statements about homosexuals, but she also knows she can’t win the national race with those views. A friend of mine said Bachmann’s “brain failed” in this section. Maybe, but she did remain calm and restrained which was apparently job number 1 for this interview overall.

At one point, Bachmann threw out a statistic about the number of people at the US Department of Transportation earning over $170,000. She said there was only 1 at the start of the Obama Administration and now there are over a thousand. She uses this as part of her usual stump speech. In the past, Meet The Press has declined to do post-show fact-checking on their guests. But this is the kind of statement which cries out for more detail and could have been anticipated. I did a quick Google search and found that while the basic fact is true, the context is also important and the timeframe may differ from Bachmann’s claims.

In the roundtable, NBC’s Chuck Todd declared Perry, Bachmann, and Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) as the “top tier” of candidates. Gov. Terry Brandstad (R-IA) said Romney needs to get to Iowa and start competing.

Republican strategist Mike Murphy wondered out loud if his party is about to nominate “our own McGovern” or instead nominate someone who can win.

The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson said Bachmann is going to drive Perry and Romney crazy throughout this process. But Murphy said Perry is a barracuda who will eat Bachmann for lunch.

Todd’s analysis is that the rest of the field has to keep running to the right to get the nomination, while Bachmann, after winning in Ames, may now have a chance to run toward the center. On the other hand, he adds that the GOP presidential nomination race looks like it could go all the way to June. If so, it will be a race to win the right wing which will leave the ultimate nominee in a very tough place for competing in the general election.

Today’s Meet The Press transcript will be here.

Also follow the show on the MTP Facebook page, track Twitter feeds from host David Gregory, Meet The Press, and Executive Producer Betsy Fischer, watch the midweek PressPass interview, and don’t forget Gregory’s blog.

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