Can Michele Bachmann Win Iowa?

The political blogosphere is all aflutter over the news that Michele Bachmann has hired Mike Huckabee’s former 2008 state director in Iowa, Wes Enos. While you’d be hard pressed to find someone who would predict she’s going to win the Republican nomination, it certainly seems possible that Bachmann could nonetheless win Iowa—especially if this new hire means Huckabee’s not running.

Huckabee won Iowa in 2008, surging from single digits over the summer to finish ahead of Mitt Romney by nine points, but then couldn’t capture the nomination. While the gurus of political horseracing think this could mean Bachmann is on a similar path, I think she could following Huckabee’s trajectory for a different reason: religion.

In spite of the strenuous efforts of all of the possible candidates to court Iowa’s essential social conservatives, only Bachmann and Huckabee offer that unquestioning, unyielding “Christian worldview” framework that will resonate in a way that an interloper and Catholic convert like Newt Gingrich could never pull off. And I actually think Bachmann is better at it (and therefore more off-putting to everyone else) than even Huckabee is, and as a result possibly more endearing to the Christian nation, anti-communist, conspiracy-minded right that undergirds both the religious right and the Tea Party.

In a press release today announcing the upcoming retirement of its president, David Noebel, Summit Ministries (“the nation’s first Christian worldview organization”) described itself as “the quiet leader in this area of ever-increasing importance. Well-known Christian leaders such as Dr. James Dobson and Josh McDowell have trusted Summit to help train their own children in the war for worldviews.” Summit noted its own impact on “influencers,” singling out Bachmann as one “who have attended Summit’s training courses and have utilized their education to produce life-changing impact across the U.S.” This explains a lot, doesn’t it? As I noted in a report on Noebel last year:

If Noebel seems stuck in time with his fearmongering about a fifth column of “reds” aiming to take over America, his protégés continue to reinterpret his conspiratorial thinking in ways that reverberate throughout the conservative movement—despite the embarrassment over conspiracy theories from some conservative journalists. Noebel himself acknowledged the thread running from his activism to the Tea Party movement. “Most of them are evangelical Christian anti-communist, anti-socialist, anti-statist… Michele Bachmann is one of their leaders and she certainly is a fine Christian gal and she’s got her feet in that camp big time.”

In an appearance on the Summit-sponsored “Christian Worldview” radio program just before the 2008 election, that “fine Christian gal” asserted that “we need more biblical worldview” and “the principles that God stands for.” Host David Wheaton asked Bachmann what it was like serving in Congress, “being in that world of secular humanistic—the battle that rages for our country?” Bachmann replied that she considers it “one of the most difficult assignments I’ve been given” but “one worth doing.” She added that she fights for “freedom” that “Christ offers” because “the principles that Christ offers are the principles that enhance the greatest freedom for all of mankind. So it’s a tremendous privilege, but there is persecution that’s involved, and that’s part of the assignment.”

Bachmann thinks she’s on an assigment (a divine one, I suspect) to root out anti-Christian forces and prevail over them. In Noebel’s parlance, the “Christian worldview” is under seige, and in conflict with “competing worldviews”—Islam, secular humanism, Marxism-Leninism, cosmic humanism, and post-modernism. When Bachmann frames her “assignment” or her “battle” in these terms, it earns her the ridicule of journalists and late night comedians alike, but it’s exactly what will attract the religious right activists whose “worldview” is built on a continuum of conspiracy theories of “anti-American” forces—today, crypto-socialism, shari’ah, birtherism, to name a few—dating back to the red-baiting days of the Cold War.