Michele Bachmann's Eroding Support Could Make Re-election More Challenging
Twelve months ago, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) was riding high. She was days away from winning the Iowa Straw Poll as a Republican candidate for president and she had cameras from most major television networks covering her every move. Now, the press attention she is receiving is causing not only the GOP establishment in Washington to abandon her, but possibly some in her district as well.
Bachmann's latest controversy centers on the accusation that Huma Abedin – a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and wife of former Congressman Anthony Weiner – is somehow aligned to the Muslim Brotherhood through some members of her immediate family.
Bachmann is no stranger to controversy and at times her facts seemed slow to rise to the level necessary to meet the statements she espoused. But this time she may face a more daunting challenge as she tries to win another two-year term in Washington.
Even before the now infamous letters referencing Abedin received any widespread attention, polls showed Bachmann's congressional race in Minnesota to be tightening.
A Greenberg Quinlan Rosen Research poll showed Bachmann leading Democrat Jim Graves 48 to 43 percent which is not a large number given that until January of this year she was a presidential candidate. Even more significant is that 34 percent of voters polled rated her performance as "poor."
In January of this year, a Public Policy Polling survey revealed her unfavorable rating at 57 percent among Minnesota voters statewide with the same percentage saying she should not seek another term in Congress.
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But even her statements that send liberals over the edge haven't been enough to unseat her.
For example, in 2008 Elwyn Tinklenberg was opposing her when she suggested during an appearance on MSNBC that members of Congress and President Obama should be investigated for statements considered to be "anti-American."
In the days following, Tinklenberg received enough money and publicity to allow him to finish only three percentage points behind Bachmann in the November general election.
In 2010, she defeated former state Sen. Tarryl Clark by a more respectable 10-point margin as a GOP tidal wave swept the country. However, after redistricting, her new district is slightly more Republican than her old one which should be to her advantage if some of her more moderate constituents fall away.
Still, political analysts say that Bachmann will be difficult to defeat unless the Abedin saga continues to go south.
And that is exactly what her Democratic opponent this year is hoping might happen.
Graves, a Minnesota hotel owner and multi-millionaire, plans to take advantage of Bachmann's overzealousness this fall by painting her as out of touch with her constituents. But his challenge is getting enough voters to pay attention to the issue while it's hot.
"It brings out her weakness, which is making flippant comments that are inflammatory and baseless," Graves said in an interview with MinnPost. "I think it's going to have an impact from the perspective that it reinforces all those things."
Charlie Cook, author of The Cook Political Report, has Bachmann's district in the "Likely Republican" category with an 8-point advantage.