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What Michele Bachmann Learned From Sarah Palin

There is a saying that a fool learns from his own mistakes, but a wise man learns from the mistakes of others. When it comes to Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, there is no truer statement. 

For the record, Palin is no fool. She has turned a mismanaged 2008 campaign into political gold and brought her brand to stardom with a meteoric, well-choreographed rise. But she had to blaze a trail, one that is largely being utilized by Michele Bachmann.

Palin was the first female Republican candidate to be nominated to the GOP presidential ticket, and with that came much scrutiny. Palin, along with every political observer, quickly learned that she would be held to a different standard by the mainstream media, not just because she was a woman, but also because she was a conservative one.

With Palin, the left-leaning press asked “gotcha” questions, unlikely to be asked of a man. The then-Alaska governor was asked everything from obscure foreign policy questions to simple, almost insulting ones like “what papers do you read?” And they were all crafted, by design to confuse her.

She was lambasted for her hairstyle (beehive), sexualized for her figure (when she posed for Runner’s World magazine), ridiculed for her diction and down home style (Newsweek: “She’s one of the folks – and that’s the problem”). 

Her marriage was dissected with reporters asking if Todd was too involved in her career, despite other marriages in politics like the Clintons union being viewed as acceptable.

While Democrats could ask the media to lay off their kids, the press viciously analyzed and editorialized hers. Whether she was being judged for her choices (to run for president and not stay home to raise her handicapped infant, Trigg instead) or being even accused of lying about the paternity of her son Trigg, Palin was steadily paving the way for Bachmann, or any female Republican candidate poised to hit the presidential trail.

We all watched the soap opera unfold during the 2008 election, and we've witnessed the tug of war between Palin the press in the years that have followed, but perhaps no one was watching more closely than Michele Bachmann. 

Judging from Bachmann’s performance over the last few months, she had the luxury of observing from the sidelines, and learning from her errors.

Bachmann has message discipline. She’ll throw out red meat to her base but subtly and smartly so as not to be labeled a nut. 

She is deeply entrenched in the issues of the day from foreign policy to the budget and boasts an impressive resume that she has no problem touting, unlike Palin, who relied on McCain advisors to assist in her branding.

Both women have shrewd political instincts and embraced the outsider persona when the country was disgusted with insiders, but Bachmann took the Tea Party to a new level by headlining the movement's largest rally in Washington, D.C.

Rather than spar with those who buy ink by the barrel, a la Palin, Bachmann realizes that this can drag a candidate down and get them off track. 

Instead, Bachmann blows of their nonsense and inherently biased questions with ease and coolly coasts back on message. 

When "Fox News Sunday’s" Chris Wallace asked her if she was a "flake" she brushed it off and got back to highlighting her credentials. When she confused actor John Wayne with serial killer John Wayne Gasey (both from Iowa) in her official presidential announcement remarks she admitted she made a mistake and moved on rather than staying around to spar with the press.

Bachmann, it appears, acutely understands that she will be held to a different standard than the guys, just as Palin was. She demonstrated this during the first debate in New Hampshire. While the boys rolled their eyes and smirked at each other, she took shots at the president – not her GOP rivals – doing it all the while with a smile.

Lessons have been learned. She won’t give the press the fight that they want. She won’t let her gaffes (and all politicians make them) define her. And she will not resign from office to pursue her passions.

She isn’t better than Palin, but maybe she's a little wiser. And she has Palin to thank.

Andrea Tantaros is a commentator and Fox News contributor. Follow her on Twitter @andreatantaros.

 

Andrea Tantaros currently serves as co-host of Fox News Channel's The Five (weekdays 5-6 PM/ET). She joined the network as a contributor in 2010. Follow her on Twitter @andreatantaros or on Facebook.com/andreatantaros. Click here for more information on Andrea Tantaros