She might as well. As a practical matter, she's got no other path to higher office in Minnesota, because she would be highly unlikely to win statewide office. There's no clear favorite in the race up to this point and Barack Obama is going to be vulnerable. Bachmann is ambitious and she'll have a chance to advance her brand in ways that could lead her out of the box she's in here.
In the end, I don't suspect Bachmann could win the GOP nomination and I'd imagine that Bachmann actually knows that, too. My guess is that she's in the race for two reasons:
- She wants to move the debate to the issues she cares about, which are primarily fiscal, despite her reputation as a social issues politician. While there's been a certain amount of opportunism involved in her effort to capture the Tea Party banner, she has been pretty consistent concerning the need to cut spending and the size and scope of government. And because she isn't especially interested in compromise, she isn't compromised.
- She's also a bit of a stalking horse for two other candidates. The obvious one is Sarah Palin, who is acting like a presidential candidate in some ways, but may not run this time around. The other is Tim Pawlenty. The conventional wisdom concerning the relationship between Pawlenty and Bachmann is that they are competitors and the pool of available voters for their respective campaigns is finite. I'm not convinced of this. Mitch Berg has posited that Bachmann can play a similar role to that of Brian Sullivan, a businessman with rock-solid conservative credentials who ran a tight race against Pawlenty for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2002. Sullivan effectively pushed Pawlenty to the right then and in most ways, Pawlenty governed Minnesota as a bona fide conservative. Will Bachmann's red meat approach lead Pawlenty to be a bit more bold? Potentially.