Before Sarah Palin, Steve Bannon made a movie about Michele Bachmann. Could it push her over the top in Iowa?
One could make a fairly convincing case that Steve Bannon, the filmmaker who brought us the Sarah Palin bio pic "The Undefeated," has gotten at least as much attention these last few months as Palin herself. (We at The Atlantic have supplied a good deal of it.) But with Palin looking ever less likely to run, a different Bannon film could -- ironically -- wind up having a bigger impact on the Republican primaries. Last September, Bannon released "Fire From the Heartland," an admiring film about Michele Bachmann and other Tea Party-style conservative women. (One reviewer, who happens to be my editor, called it "An admixture of propaganda and documentary that gives a new view on conservative women and their role in the movement.") The movie was funded by the conservative group Citizens United, which, on Sunday, launched a $75,000 Iowa advertising campaign that includes television and billboards (like the one above) strategically placed near Des Moines and Ames. Per a Citizens United press release, the ad campaign will "culminate with a booth at the Ames Straw Poll on August 13th."
"Culminating with a booth" hardly quickens the pulse. But the obvious intent here is to boost Bachmann's showing at the straw poll -- and maybe make a few bucks in the process. Although the movie is about a group of conservative women, Bachmann has now been elevated to a starring role and Citizens United has recut the movie poster to feature her alone. I called Bannon to ask him about his "other" movie and who he'd prefer to see win the nomination, Palin or Bachmann. "Look, I'm very proud of ["Fire From the Heartland"], it's a great film, and it's got a lot about Gov. Palin in it," he told me. "It tells a terrific story and as many people ought to watch it as possible. It shows sides of Rep. Bachmann that haven't been seen before. The film really goes into her time as a tax litigator and how that changed her life."
Bannon didn't bite on my "Who would you prefer" line of questioning, though it's pretty clear he's a Palin guy. "They're two totally different people," he told me. "Bachmann is a firebrand, she's a Thomas Paine. Gov. Palin is completely different, an executive and a very hands-on leader. I couldn't think more highly of Rep. Bachmann, and although I did not make 'The Undefeated' for [Palin] to get in the race, I really did it as a mechanism so people would understand her true story. And I hope she does become a candidate."
But even she doesn't, Bannon may wind up with a film about the Republican nominee. Here's a trailer: