Every election, Michele Bachmann one-ups her propensity for outrageous comments, and every cycle, she somehow manages to eke out a narrow win in her exurban Minnesota district.
After winning her seat from a strong Dem challenger 50% to 48% in favorable Democratic conditions in the 2006 midterms, Bachmann should've had an easier run as an incumbent in 2008. But her comments in October 2008 on MSNBC's Hardball asserting that then presidential candidate Barack Obama "may have un-American views" and that unnamed members of Congress should be investigated for "anti-Americanism" caused a national firestorm that earned her Democratic opponent $1.6 million in donations in the last month of the campaign. So Bachmann just squeaked by, winning 46% to transportation official Elwyn Tinklenberg's 43%.
The experience, however, has not taught Bachmann to be quiet. This cycle, she has been at the forefront of the Tea Party movement and one of the President's most vocal critics. Hardly a week goes by that Bachmann isn't on the cable news shows throwing, and cashing in on, verbal bombs, such as her recent suggestion that Obama might be impeached. So far this cycle, she's raised an astonishing $11.1 million. Her outspokenness, though, has as usual painted a rather large and appealing target on her back for Dems.
On Nov. 2, Bachmann will square off against state senator Tarryl Clark, who is the No. 2 Democrat in the Minnesota Senate. In Clark, Dems have found a strong candidate who has proved to be a talented fundraiser, generating $5.2 million thus far this cycle quite a haul for a first-time federal candidate. Clark has accused Bachmann of wanting to dismantle Social Security and Medicare, after Bachmann called for a "reorganization" of the entitlements in the face of record deficits, but the charges haven't stuck much with voters. A July Survey USA poll of the district found Bachmann leading Clark by 9 points, 48% to 39%. A September survey from the same group found Bachmann still ahead by 9 points, 49% to 40%.
Both women are strong on children's issues a must-make appeal to the security moms of the Twin Cities' suburbs and exurbs. Bachmann's a mother of five who has taken in 23 foster children. She sponsored legislation in the Minnesota legislature establishing a task force on Internet crimes against juveniles. A prominent social conservative, Bachmann is vehemently opposed to gay marriage and abortion.
Clark's a mother of two who got her start in public service in 1983 when she launched the Young Adult Program at the Center for Youth Resources in Phoenix to help young mothers develop skills to get jobs. She's a longtime mentor of the Girl Scouts and an advocate for Head Start. At the YWCA, Clark developed and led a teen-pregnancy-prevention program. She also served as public-policy director of the Children's Defense Fund of Minnesota from 1995 to 1997.
Given the climate this year, Bachmann's likely to win re-election unless, as she did in 2008, she says something particularly outrageous that gives Clark an opening.