Of course, Bachmann’s campaign is about much more than motherhood, but in evoking the mother role, the congresswoman does with her gender what she has failed to do with her rhetoric: She opens up the possibility of her candidacy appealing to a broader range of voters.

Bachmann infuses religious language into political speeches on a variety of subjects, weaving the Bible into her comments like a skilled preacher on Easter Sunday. For the faithful, this is like a political B-12 shot (witness the burst of evangelical enthusiasm for George W. Bush when he called Christ his favorite political philosopher in 2000). But for those outside American evangelicalism, this rhetoric is confusing, even scary.

When I was doing research for my book Faith in the Halls of Power , last election’s evangelical presidential candidate—former Governor Mike Huckabee—told me, “I’ve been burned so much [by the media]. When people would ask me things, I would answer in the language of Zion….It would later come back to haunt me—not because I didn’t mean it, but because they couldn’t quite understand what I was trying to communicate.”

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