Losing Sarah--meet the new Palin prototype, Michele Bachmann

Is it time to bid a fond farewell to Sarah Palin? We wish it wasn't so, but it seems there is a new wackadoo political force about to take centre stage in the US--Michele Bachmann.

Drat. Just when I was starting to get excited at the prospect of a Sarah Palin candidacy for US President, it seems her near-run may be nearly over. Which means the best I can hope for this political year is more doofy utterances from Mitt Romney, who is leading the Republican field, and, closer to home, more shots of John Key tooling around in Shotover Jet golf cart-type contraptions. Elections should be more fun than this. And by fun, I don't mean that I wish to see Phil Goff on his motorbike again.

If, as expected, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann--another Tea Party supporter and inexplicably popular conservative woman--announces her candidacy for the Republican nomination in the next week or so, we can almost certainly kiss goodbye to more photocalls with Sarah on the back of Harley-Davidsons, or touring strategic parts of the US by bus to 'talk to the folks', as she and her family did over the Memorial Day weekend.

Bachman and Palin occupy the same space, policy-wise and personality wise, and America is only likely to make room for one of these characters in the Presidential race. According to the Huffington Post, the Minnesota Republican considers Palin a "friend," not a "competitor." But she said that she has no problem running against a friend, if it came to it, which means she doesn't take her any more seriously than the general electorate.

Of the two, Bachmann is far more experienced, with a known voting record and clear policy platforms--Palin could only tweet and blog her way so far into a candidacy before she would be forced to actually say what she stands for, and that's what got her into trouble last time.

So, who is Michele Bachmann, and what can we hope for? Well, she is a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and founder of the House Tea Party Caucus. Before getting into politics she was a tax attorney and foster mother to 23. She is a social conservative, taking stances against legalised abortion and teaching evolution in schools, and she is a vocal critic of Obama's health care reform efforts, jumping on the "death panel" band wagon, just like Palin.

Also familiar, she is good at making outlandish public statements that turn out to be not quite right. For example, she insinuated that the swine flu outbreaks in 1976 and 2009 were linked to Democratic presidents in the White House--although Republican Gerald Ford was president at the time of the first swine flu outbreak. She a climate change denier, who says trying to "save the planet" is pointless, given that it was already done 2000 years ago, by Jesus.

Bachmann opposes raising the minimum wage, suggesting that if there were no such thing as a minimum wage, there would be no unemployment because employers would be able to afford to hire everybody. No, she's not a deep thinker, and that is what will endear her to the press, who will delight in her gaffes and pratfalls. The election coverage teams must be thanking their lucky stars.

But I can't help feeling it won't be the same. Palin was like a fresh Spring breeze in 2008. She leapt into the international arena with her so-called soccer-mom wisdom and spunky soundbites about lipstick-wearing pitbulls and looking out the window to check on the doings in Russia. And she brought a whole new crop of "celebs" with her. Special mention must go to daughter Bristol, who got pregnant to a boy who then ratted her mum out the press, and then donned a sparkly dress and joined the cast of Dancing with the Stars. Not forgetting "first dude" Todd Palin, the Iditarod champ and otherwise silent helpmate, and all the fed-up citizens of Palin's hometown of Wasilla, who turned on her when she gave up the Governorship. It was like a Garrison Keillor novel come to life, except meaner.

And now it's over. It pains, me it really does. But at least I have the comfort of being able to re-read Sarah from Alaska's biography, Going Rogue. Maybe she'll even publish a follow-up.