Bachmann will need to be more than just a voice 

During her presidential announcement this morning, Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., said that her "voice is part of a movement to take back our country, and now I want to take that voice to the White House." That one statement invokes both the promise and peril of her candidacy.

It's the strength of  Bachmann's voice and her bond with grassroots conservatives that made her into a rock star in Congress after just over two terms of service. Her voice showed in her strong debate performance earlier this month and has propelled her to the status of early frontrunner in Iowa going into her announcement this morning. But to expand her support beyond her immediate base and prove she has what it takes to actually serve as president, she'll have to convince skeptics that she's more than just a voice.

The difficulty Bachmann faces is that unlike several of her rivals, she never served as governor or in a similar executive capacity. So she's going to have to find some way to make the argument that she's actually prepared to be president.

During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama faced similar questions. But he had a number of things going for him that Bachmann won't. He had an adoring media. He was a Senator, which is seen as better preparation than being a member of the House.  Also, his chief rivals (John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and eventually John McCain) didn't have executive experience either. That allowed Obama to ride the wave of change all the way to the White House. The argument he made was that he had the "judgment to lead" because he had called the Iraq War a "dumb war" and opposed it from the beginning, while his more seasoned rivals had not.

Bachmann doesn't have to convince people that she's a conservative or that she would pursue conservative policies if elected. She has to prove that she can beat Obama and actually be an effective president.

On the flip side, if Tim Pawlenty has hope of catching her in Iowa, he'll have to emphasize his own governing experience and find a way to raise doubts about Bachmann's preparedness. If she wins Iowa, Romney will likely rely on the executive background contrast to stave off her challenge.

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Philip Klein

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