Palin Rivalry Becomes Bachmann Campaign Strategy

Bachmann's top adviser offers catfight quotes to Politico

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"She's pretty, but you're pretty and smart" is a line more typically used by boyfriends to calm jealous girlfriends or women's magazines editors. But here is Ed Rollins, the top adviser to Michele Bachmann's nascent 2012 campaign, comparing his boss's qualifications to be president to Sarah Palins to Politico.

Bachmann will “be so much more substantive,” Rollins said. “People are going to say, ‘I gotta make a choice and go with the intelligent woman who’s every bit as attractive.’”

Why the Palin-Bachmann catfight narrative would be enticing to reporters is obvious. But why would Bachmann's own campaign would push it so aggressively? Maybe Rollins is betting on the power of punching upward. Or maybe he's noticed how much publicity a girl-on-girl brawl can generate. Or maybe the answer is more simple: Rollins just has a big fat mouth. Mother Jones' Andy Kroll notes that just six months before Rollins criticized Palin as unserious, he said the same thing about his new boss. When Bachmann delivered the Tea Party response to President Obama's State of the Union address, Rollins said on CNN:

"Michele Bachmann obviously is a member of Congress and a representative of the tea party. But at the end of the day, we have to get our serious players out front and talking about the things that matter to be the alternative to the president and Democrats."

And in April, Rollins said Bachmann wouldn't win the Republican nomination. When Kroll asked Rollins about his past comments, he explained, "That was before she hired me!" He added that in the past few weeks, Bachmann has built up a serious campaign, and the GOP field has opened up. ABC News' Michael Falcone writes that this is "the reason why it's dangerous to have TV commentator as campaign manager. What Ed Rollins said about Palin was totally acceptable for a pundit--not so much for campaign strategist."

But NBC News' First Read counters that Rollins might have made some unfortunate comments, but his hiring should end the storyline that Bachmann and Palin are body doubles. "Bachmann went out of her comfort zone and hired a top Republican strategist. Palin hasn't, and she probably wouldn't ever do that. Bachmann's not fighting for the same space as Palin; she's fighting in the same space as Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, even Tim Pawlenty."

Update: Bachmann's campaign pushes back against Rollins' statements, emailing Maggie Haberman, "The Congresswoman has nothing but admiration and respect for Governor Palin. The two enjoy a good friendship, and Rep. Bachmann looks forward to working with the Governor for the common goal of making sure President Obama is a one-term President."

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