In late October, Rep. Michelle Bachmann put her re-election prospects in danger with an unbelievable rant against anti-American sentiment in Congress. Within 48 hours, her opponent raised more than $1 million and the DCCC committed as much money to the district. On November 4th, Bachmann survived by 2%. That this was a disappointment to Democrats should not obscure the fact that Bachmann significantly under-performed compared to the top of her ticket.
MN-06 is a staunchly Republican district: George W. Bush crushed John Kerry by 15% in 2004, and John McCain managed to beat Barack Obama 53% to 45%. That is a solid enough red lean that the GOP would have little trouble defending it if it was not for Bachmann’s profile as one of the House’s most outspoken conservatives. Bachmann has a history of incomprehensible statements, starting with her description of the liberal agenda back in August:
This is their agenda… I know it is hard to believe, it’s hard to fathom — but this is ‘mission accomplished’ for them. They want Americans to take transit and move to the inner cities. They want Americans to move to the urban core, live in tenements, [and] take light rail to their government jobs. That’s their vision for America.
And Bachmann is attracting attention once again for an interview she gave about the stimulus. First, Bachmann claims that ACORN has been indicted by the government and that the stimulus bill is giving that group $5 billion. Both statements are false: ACORN has been under investigation for months, but they have not been indicted; and the group is not mentioned in the stimulus bill. Later in the interview, Bachmann lamented that, “We’re running out of rich people in this country.” (The interview contained some more gems.)
Bachmann’s comments appeared on the front page of Minnesota’s Star Tribune, and they made headlines on CNN. After all, Bachmann became such a controversial figure last fall that any comment she now makes is bound to be closely scrutinized. The underlying arguments of Bachmann’s statements are not necessarily different from those of other Republicans; but Bachmann delivers comments that are bound to make her a punching bag for liberals and create fodder for late-night jokes.
Democrats will make sure she faces a top-tier opponent who is funded enough to topple her. Bachmann did survive the 2008 cycle, but she is in a situation comparable to other Republicans so controversial that they endangered safely red seats. Rep. Bill Sali’s antics allowed the DCCC to pick-up ID-01 last fall, while a series of controversies surrounding Jean Schmidt gave Democrats a shot one of Ohio’s most conservative districts. Schmidt did survive a couple of times by narrow margins, but OH-02 is far more Republican than MN-06. (McCain got 62% in the former, 53% in the latter.)
In short: Bachmann still has a giant target on her back.
There are other House races in Minnesota worth keeping an eye on. Swing State Project has been compiling district-level results of the presidential election, and the data of several districts is interesting:
- In what is undoubtedly the biggest disappointment for Democrats, MN-03 swung decisively towards Democrats at the presidential column (Obama won by 6%, Bush had won by 3%) but the open seat race was won by Republican Erik Paulsen. The new representative has an obvious target on his back; his ability to over-perform relative to McCain had as much to do with his Democratic opponent as with his own strength.
- After voting for George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004, MN-01 swung to the Democratic column by 8% to give Barack Obama a 51% to 47% victory. That makes Democratic Rep. Tim Walz look less vulnerable than he did since his upset victory in the 2006 midterms.
- MN-02 and MN-07 are both known as conservative districts, won by Bush by 9% and 12% respectively. They now look much tighter: McCain won MN-02 by 2%, MN-07 by 3%. Interestingly, the latter district is represented by a Democrat, Rep. Peterson.
While these swings sound impressive, there are all inferior to the national average of Obama’s improvement over Kerry - 10%. And this is confirmed by down-the-ballot results: From Bachmann’s survival to Paulsen’s victory, Minnesota proved resistant to Democrats last fall. Even if Al Franken looks like he will replace Norm Coleman, similarly placed Democrats like Jeff Merkley and Kay Hagan won far more easily. Will this prove a one-cycle phenomenon, or will Minnesota Republicans confirm their good disposition in 2010?