Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is scheduled to give the Republican response to the State of the Union address tonight. Shortly afterward, Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota will broadcast the Tea Party Express response online.
Bachmann says she’s not trying to steal the spotlight from Ryan, or interfere with his response, but merely accepted the Tea Party Express invitation for Tuesday night. She founded the Tea Party Caucus in the House, so she’s a natural choice to speak from the Tea Party Express platform. She’s waiting until Ryan finishes, so news networks won’t be swiveling their cameras away from Ryan to cover her. Prominent politicians routinely deliver their own responses to the State of the Union speech. Barack Obama did so, back in 2008.
It’s not surprising the media would play Bachmann’s speech up as the sign of a schism between Republicans and the Tea Party, a storyline they are very interested in pursuing. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor even called them on it yesterday, asking reporters why they were devoting so much coverage to Bachmann.
There might eventually be a schism, if the GOP doesn’t follow through on the promises it made during the 2010 midterm elections… but Michele Bachmann’s response tonight doesn’t automatically indicate the presence of such a conflict. Republicans grousing about her potentially “stealing the spotlight” should have a little more faith in Paul Ryan.
A lot depends on what Bachmann actually says, and it’s rather unlikely she’ll begin by pretending to choke down snores from a deep sleep induced by Ryan’s weaksauce response. I’m looking forward to watching both of them.