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GOP Debate: Michele Bachmann and Six Guys

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From The Nation

Say what you will about Michele Bachmann, but don't deny that she is the most theatrically skilled Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan.

During a debate that did nothing to discourage the prospective campaigns of Republicans who were not on the stage -- former Utah Governor John Huntsman, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and, above all, Texas Governor Rick Perry -- Bachmann was the one candidate who made news.

At the opening of the second Republican presidential debate Monday night, Bachmann took an unprecedented step: she announced that she had formally entered the race for the GOP nomination -- a move that just a few months ago was unimaginable to almost anyone but the congresswoman from Minnesota.

Yes, it was a little bizarre. Most candidates get the family together, call in a crowd of supporters and deliver a rip-roaring address that scopes out a vision for the country. Bachmann says she's jumping through those hoops "soon."

But rather than wait, Bachmann just told John King that she was ready to make the race.

It was a stunt.

But there's a reason why politicians -- especially politicians mounting uphill runs -- pull stunts.

They grab attention, make voters take a second look and jump-start a campaign.

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That's what Bachmann was doing, with her start-of-the-debate announcement and every answer she gave on a night that saw the men who would be president struggle to excite a friendly crowd.

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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