Let me offer a few quick thoughts. I don't think that it's worthwhile to put too much effort into breaking down the results: not only is it still very early in the campaign season, but it's pretty easy to do well in this event so long as one is willing to pony up the cash for tickets for one's supporters. This is actually reasonable shorthand for what Bachmann did.
Still, she has to be considered a winner here. The left has a visceral hatred of her, surpassed only, perhaps, by the same for Sarah Palin. As a libertarian, I don't care much for either lady, though from a foreign policy standpoint, Bachmann's views are less completely neo-conservative. These women are particularly loathed by the feminists. John Derbyshire's take on the matter, which I can't seem to find, is that women are not supposed to leave the reservation. The narrative has it that feminism has brought untold blessings to womankind--or at least those who avoided being put to death by their mothers. To identity oneself as a conservative or a Republican is to turncoat against the Democrats, purveyors of these essential blessings. That Bachmann and Palin are mothers only increases feminist rage. As Roissy put things:
There’s no better way to remind a hip clubgoing single chick in the city who loves to travel and sip pinot noir of her impending infertility and genetic obsolescence than with the image of a woman who’s chosen not to ignore her biological imperative in favor of playing the field indefinitely.
Critics of Palin and Bachmann insist that the women are not very bright. I've been less than impressed with Palin: not that she's necessarily unintelligent, but that she's not informed. She would have done well to spend her time reading books to increase her knowledge rather than waxing vapidly on Fox News. Bachmann appears to be smarter, though this won't stop the left from uttering endless bromides insisting that she, like every non-moderate Republican in history, is an imbecile.
Bachmann has thus emerged as a serious candidate. Hence she will face increasing scrutiny in the months to come. She's a polarizing figure, so her utility in an election depends on whether she can ratchet up more support among the tea partiers than she can convince Obama weary Democrats to punch the lever against her. She strikes me as a far more formidable candidate than others have supposed, though admittedly much can change in the next year or so.
Ron Paul was the other winner yesterday, as he finished just behind Bachmann. Most of the stories and commentary I have read have ignored Paul's accomplishment. I suspect that, just as in 2008, this will help Paul, as the perception that he is feared by the party elites--as indeed he is--reinforces the notion that he is different from the run of the mill politician.
One last point: it looks as if those party elites have drafted Perry, since it is becoming increasingly clear that Romney is not going to take. I have no idea why anyone suspects that the base will be receptive to Perry, but the elites were successful in getting people to vote for the lackluster McCain. It might seem, then, that a Perry-Bachmann ticket could be in the works, but Bachmann is a possible presidential nominee, whereas Palin only became so after she was plucked from obscurity by McCain.
None of the above should be taken as evidence that the republic is in anyway salvageable. The 2012 election is nothing more than political theater, but it succeeds wonderfully in that capacity, and therefore merits a modicum of attention.